Wheeler, Walden Promote Incentive Auction in Tandem

In an unusual pairing, the Democratic chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, and the Republican chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, Greg Walden, got together Friday on a co-bylined op-ed in The Hill newspaper to celebrate the success of the ASW-3 auction and put in a plug for the next auction —of reclaimed broadcast spectrum.

Wheeler had noted soon after the FCC's Jan. 29 public meeting, during which he announced the end of the auction, that Walden had already texted him congratulations.

The auction was created by legislation co-authored by Walden, and ended up drawing almost $45 billion in conditional bids, more than twice pre-auction estimates. That success relieves the pressure on the broadcast incentive auction to raise enough money to cover the interoperable first response network, FirstNet (about $7 billion), with more than $20 billion left over for deficit reduction.

The pair noted in their op-ed that it was the highest grossing auction in FCC history and that it was thanks to the efforts of many —though they did not mention the broadcasters who struck a deal to move off of ENG spectrum and relocate to help free up the 65 MHz for auction.

But they said the success story wasn't over and pointed to all the money for deficit reduction the broadcast auction should be bringing in.

"Another spectrum boon for consumers and our economy is on the horizon. The law also directs the FCC to hold a first-of-its-kind Incentive auction: a new, two-sided auction that harnesses market forces to repurpose spectrum voluntarily relinquished by TV broadcasters for wireless broadband," they said.

"This 'beachfront' spectrum [because of its propagation characteristics] is especially valuable. Since the AWS-3 auction successfully paid for the priorities mandated by Congress, every cent of net revenue from the incentive auction —after payments to broadcasters who elect to relinquish spectrum— will go toward deficit reduction.

Something like the incentive auction has never been tried before —but neither had anything like the AWS-3 auction. As we've seen, that auction's success is a good sign that bipartisan, collaborative efforts can and do produce positive results for the American people....Bipartisan collaboration across the government is still very possible, and this work will help cement our country's global leadership in mobile innovation."

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.