In a letter to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Thursday, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) says that Congress specifically gave the commission the discretion to create guard bands out of spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters and to give unlicensed devices use of those bands, rather than auction them.
The FCC last month voted on a proposed framework for reclaiming and auctioning broadcast spectrum. In his statement on the vote, Pai said that while the FCC proposal assumes that the guard bands don't need to be licensed and auctioned, he was not sure that was consistent with legislation establishing the auctions.
Eshoo, one of the legislators who worked on that law, said she was sure the law did allow for unlicensed devices to be either primary or secondary users of those guard bands, "contrary to his assertion at the meeting."
Eshoo represents some of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that have been advocating for more unlicensed spectrum use.
"With a nationwide block of spectrum dedicated for unlicensed innovation as Congress envisioned," she wrote Pai, "the opportunities to support key sectors of the U.S. economy, including healthcare, education and energy are limitless."
A Pai spokesman pointed out that Pai supports unlicensed use, but also supports asking questions up front to make sure the FCC's implementation of the law squares with the statute and congressional intent.
"Commissioner Pai believes that unlicensed use is an important component of a responsible spectrum strategy," he said. "In July, he called for an all-of-the-above approach that includes unlicensed, and yesterday in San Diego, he called for the Commission to start a proceeding to make available nearly 200 MHz of spectrum for unlicensed use. With respect to incentive auctions, he believes that it is important to ask all necessary questions and looks forward to reviewing the record before reaching any conclusions. He appreciates Congresswoman Eshoo's perspective and looks forward to working with her to structure the incentive auctions in a manner consistent with the statute."