Spectrum Auction Guru Gary Epstein Exiting FCC

With the close of the FCC broadcast incentive auction last week, FCC Incentive Auction Task Force chairman Gary Epstein will be exiting at the end of the month, Epstein confirmed to B&C.

Epstein is the luncheon speaker at the Media Institute Wednesday, where he is expected to announce what will be his fourth "retirement" following years of government service and private practice in the communications space.

Epstein, a prominent telecommunications attorney, joined the FCC in April 2012 as lead on the incentive auction.

Epstein retired from private practice in 2009 as a partner in Latham & Watkins and head of its communications group before being wooed to the FCC by then-FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to tackle the incentive auction, which had been likened to a Rubik’s cube wrapped in duct tape for its level of complexity. 

It was a homecoming of sorts for Epstein, who had been chief of the Common Carrier Bureau at the FCC in the early 1980s.

The FCC last week issued its public notice on the final auction tally, identifying the who, where and how much of winning bids in both the reverse and forward portions of the auction. "The incentive auction is officially closed," Epstein said last week at the announcement of that notice, "and the 39-month post-auction transition period has begun."

The task force deputy chair is currently Jean Kiddoo, who will now be focused on the post-incentive auction TV station repack.

The auction made available the most low-band spectrum ever offered up by the commission and was one of its highest grossing in terms of revenue—$19.8 billion, second only to the AWS-3 spectrum auction in 2014-2015.

"When I asked Gary to lead the incentive auction effort, I told him his job was to make the impossible inevitable," said Genachowksi of Epstein's departuer. "He did exactly that, working relentlessly to deliver a first-of-its kind, incredibly complex, two sided spectrum auction. Freeing up over 80 MHz of spectrum, recovering billions of dollars for the public, proving that government can be innovative and can work - would not have happened without Gary and a great team of public servants at the FCC."

“We are grateful for Gary’s tireless service helping the FCC to implement Congress’s vision for the first-of-its-kind two sided spectrum auction," said CTIA EVP Brad Gillen. "The incentive auction produced the second largest spectrum total in FCC history and with a speedy transition this spectrum will enable the wireless industry to invest billions more building out next generation networks to meet consumers’ demand for mobile broadband.”

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.