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Telecoms Praise Incentive Auction Framework

Broadcasters were crying foul at the FCC's incentive auction report and order Thursday, but telecom carriers were praising the move.

“The Commission has adopted a balanced set of rules that will raise the necessary funds for FirstNet and help our nation achieve its first, nationwide advanced public safety network," said Chip Pickering, CEO of Comptel. "In addition, this action will promote competition in the wireless marketplace and ensure a competitive bidding process where companies of all sizes will have an opportunity to acquire the valuable spectrum needed to supply American consumers with the broadband mobile services they desire."

AT&T was pleased that the FCC modified its bidding rules to give the company a chance for more low-band spectrum, and to even the playing field when it comes to deciding what spectrum counts toward local market aggregation limits.

"The 600 MHz auction represents an enormous opportunity for the wireless industry to obtain new and valuable spectrum licenses to satisfy consumer demand for new and innovative mobile services," the company said. "The order adopted today represents a significant milestone for FCC progress. And AT&T intends to participate actively and meaningfully in the auction to ensure that it is a success for all participants.”

“We are pleased that today’s order aligns the FCC’s spectrum screen with current marketplace realities. For far too long, the screen has been woefully under-inclusive," added Verizon, who was also concerned about the bidding and aggregation limits. "By counting all providers’ broadband spectrum equally, the FCC’s decision will help ensure that all carriers have the opportunity to acquire the spectrum necessary to serve their customers."

With AT&T committed to participating in the auction, and Verizon likely to step up as well, there is a better chance that the FCC will have enough money to compensate broadcasters who give up spectrum, pay for FirstNet, the interoperable broadband first-responder network, pay for e-911 and some R&D, and have billions left over to pay down debt, all envisioned by Congress when it authorized the auction.

Broadcasters not planning to give up spectrum are concerned that the framework, in National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton's words, "threatens diverse programming sources and diminishes a vibrant free and local news, entertainment and information source for millions of Americans who can't afford $200 a month pay TV and broadband bills."

NAB says the framework uses software to calculate TV station coverage that is inaccurate and does not guarantee broadcasters who don't want to give up spectrum will be held harmless in the repacking.