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Public Knowledge to Hill: Oversee Auctions, Don't Micromanage Them

Public Knowledge is telling Congress that everybody needs to
lighten up when it comes to spectrum incentive auctions so the FCC staffers can
do their jobs, or risk rushing headlong and "heedlessly" into an
"ill-designed" process.

The FCC has been getting plenty of input from the Hill and
stakeholders on its efforts to develop a band plan for housing broadcasters and
wireless companies after the incentive auctions, including from big wireless
companies concerned that they could be kneecapped by spectrum limits,
broadcasters concerned the band plan could reduce their viability downstream,
and many seeking more details about the auction set-up before they decide to

But according to a copy of his testimony for a July 23
hearing on spectrum auctions in the House Communications Subcommittee, PK
senior VP Harold Feld suggests some stakeholders need to take a chill pill and
stop "browbeating" FCC staffers.

"Constantly hectoring staff that they are moving too
fast or two slow, issuing too many public notices or not enough, being too
generous to broadcasters or not generous enough, scheming to undermine licensed
spectrum with inflated guard bands or being in the pocket of this or that
faction of the industry is worse than not helpful," he says. "It
creates an atmosphere of suspicion and pushes staff to retreat into the bowels
of the Portals at a time when we need the maximum amount of transparency and
trust between staff and stakeholders."

Feld says the commission should avoid "forcing"
false choices between licensed and unlicensed spectrum or boosting competition
vs. paying for FirstNet (the interoperable nationwide broadband first responder
network that will be paid for out of auction proceeds).

Feld's advice to Congress is to oversee the process without
micromanaging it. "It is entirely appropriate to require the FCC to
explain its choices," he says. "It is counter-productive to tell the
FCC before it even makes choices that it has chosen wrong."

Feld cautions the government to "carefully
examining" the consensus band plan outline endorsed jointly by the National
Association of Broadcasters, Verizon and AT&T given that "the interest
of the federal government is somewhat at odds with the interest of both
wireless carriers (who would prefer to acquire licenses as cheaply as possible)
and broadcasters (who would prefer to sell for the highest value

Public Knowledge is not without its own dogs in
the fight, however. It wants the FCC to make plenty of spectrum available for
unlicensed, and rules to keep the largest wireless companies from dominating
the bidding, or what Feld calls the "No Piggies Rule." Or put another
way, he wants to make sure that "this [or that] little piggie" gets
to market with an opportunity to buy.