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Snowe Warns Against Overemphasizing Spectrum Auction

Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe has suggested to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that he is putting the spectrum auction cart before the spectrum inventory horse.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been pushing Congress to pass legislation authorizing government payments to broadcasters and others who voluntarily give up spectrum for wireless broadband. Such incentive auctions, he says, are an important part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan of freeing up 300 Mhz of spectrum in five years and 500 in 10 years, including a target of 120 mHz from broadcasters.

But in a letter to the chairman this week, Snowe said she thought he was putting too much emphasis on auctions as "an essential tool," and that calls for legislation that would simply authorize the payments could "derail" more comprehensive reform.

For example, Snowe teamed with Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) on a comprehensive spectrum bill, which she says she plans to reintroduce in some form in the new Congress.

She also suggested the first essential tool would be for the FCC to complete a promised spectrum inventory. She said adding to her unhappiness with an "overemphasis" on auctions was the fact that the FCC had not produced an inventory, despite indicating that back in July that it was moving as fast as it could. She noted that the chairman had unveiled a Spectrum Dashboard tool, which provides information to the public about spectrum use and users, but that it "is not a sufficient substitute to conducting an actual inventory.