Rob McDowell: Federal Spectrum Auction Bill Teed Up

Former FCC commissioner Rob McDowell says to look for senior members of the Commerce Committees in both Houses of Congress to introduce legislation, perhaps by the end of this month, on freeing up government spectrum for auction.

That came in a conference call with reporters Wednesday and based on Hill sources he said he had talked to.

McDowell is currently a partner at Wiley Rein, which has a number of wireless clients, but he pushed for freeing up more government spectrum as a commissioner as well.

He said that helping "put the wind in the sales" of a government spectrum bill was the recent AWS-3 auction, which raked in an "eye-popping" almost $45 billion.

The legislation would identify spectrum to reclaim and likely provide for unlicensed use, as well as set time frames for that to happen.

McDowell co-wrote an op ed with former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski last month calling for Congress to press the issue of freeing up government spectrum for auction if government agencies did not take the initiative on their own.

He said on the call that the government has up to 80% of the most broadband-friendly spectrum.

McDowell said there was a "unique opportunity" for Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to have the government give up some of its spectrum before the end of the year.

He said given that Congress will be working on the budget and committees get "brownie points" if they find money for the treasury, particularly if they don't invovle tax increases. "Federal spectrum auctions could generate billions of dollars in the coming years," he said.

He also said that after the broadcast incentive auction, there is no more spectrum in the pipeline. He pointed out that only about 135 MHz of spectrum has been freed up so far toward an FCC and administration goal of 500--not counting the broadcast incentive auction.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.