FCC Gets High Fives for Incentive Auction Launch

Stakeholders Weigh in on Friday's Vote

In most cases, reaction to the FCC's unanimous vote to launch its broadcast spectrum incentive auction rulemaking was swift and positive. Absent from that chorus was the National Association of Broadcasters, which scheduled a news conference for later in the day to talk about the proposal.

"The FCC's adoption of a proposed rulemaking to implement a voluntary incentive spectrum auction begins the process of fulfilling Congress's vision for fast, ubiquitous broadband to all Americans," said Rep Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which helped draft the legislation establishing the auctions. "The proposal recognizes the need for a competitive wireless landscape and the importance of a nationwide block of spectrum dedicated to unlicensed innovation. The Commission's action today lays the foundation for a 21st century spectrum policy that will drive American innovation, create new jobs and increase consumer choice."

On the Senate side, Jay Rockefekker (D-W. Va.), who was instrumental in passage of the incentive auction legislation as a way to pay for a first responder network, shared Eshoo's enthusiasm. "Today's action by the FCC moves us yet another step closer to creating a truly nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network for our first responders," he said "When we authorized voluntary incentive auctions to fund the public safety network earlier this year, Congress recognized the dual benefit of promoting innovative spectrum policy and providing funding for next-generation public safety communications. I know that developing the rules for the incentive auctions will be a complex process, but I am optimistic that broadcasters, wireless companies, and others will work cooperatively with the FCC to make sure these auctions are successful."

Rockefeller's former top telecom aide is Jessica Rosenworcel, the newest Democratic FCC commissioner who joined her colleagues Friday in launching the landmark rulemaking.

Rockefeller's opposite number on the House side in terms of motormanning incentive auction legislation, House Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), himself a former broadcaster, also weighed in. "

"Today we are one step closer to advancing spectrum policies this subcommittee has been championing for more than five years," he said. "If implemented well, the law has the potential to help meet Americans' hunger for mobile broadband services, generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and raise billions of dollars toward buildout of the nationwide, interoperable public safety network called for by the 9/11 Commission. We will work with stakeholders and the FCC to try to make those goals come to fruition."

Also celebrating was CTIA: The Wireless Association, whose members have been clamoring for access to that reclaimed broadcast spectrum.

"Today's action by the chairman and commissioners was an important step toward alleviating the looming spectrum crisis that we've been warning policymakers about for the last three years," said CTIA president Steve Largent. 

"Since spectrum is a finite resource, we're pleased the Commission has begun the process of establishing the rules that will fulfill the goals of the recently adopted, bipartisan spectrum legislation. We also commend the Commission for working to ensure that it not only establishes rules that result in a successful auction, but also completes its efforts in a timely manner. In order to maintain our global leadership in the mobile ecosystem, we must ensure that this spectrum is brought to market more quickly than the almost ten years it took to bring the last two spectrum blocks to market."

The FCC says it will try to hold the auction by 2014.

TechAmerica president and CEO Shawn Osborne welcomed the move. "We believe that incentive auctions are an innovative way to reclaim spectrum and urge the FCC to also focus on necessary infrastructure and access. We applaud the Commission for making this rule-making process inclusive of all stakeholders. Because of the dual nature of the auction, this will be more complicated than most, so having all the interested parties engaged will be critical."

"We're glad the Commission has taken these two initial steps to reform its approach to spectrum, and we urge it to promote meaningful competition and innovation in the mobile market," said Free Press policy director Matt Wood. "The stakes couldn't be higher. As competition dwindles and prices for wireless service increase, the Commission has an opportunity to propel competition and innovation forward. Failing to seize these opportunities would further cement Verizon and AT&T as entrenched duopoly providers."

The reference to two steps was the FCC's separate vote to review its spectrum screen, which potentially limits the amount of spectrum any one company can hold in individual markets.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which has been pushing as hard as any group to get spectrum back from broadcasters, was understandably happy at this next step in that process.

"Additional spectrum is not only key to our national competitiveness, but also needed for creating jobs and spurring economic growth," said Julie Kearney, vice president of regulatory affairs.

"The FCC's adoption of this critical spectrum item is a great step forward toward unleashing countless innovative products and services that rely on our nation's valuable spectrum resources. We look forward to reviewing the FCC's NPRM and helping the FCC craft rules that will ensure that consumers are able to use their smartphones and tablets to their fullest capabilities."

Former congressman Tom Tauke, now executive vice president of Verizon, made sure to give Congress its due in his praise for the proposal. "Verizon applauds the FCC's prompt response to the passage of incentive auction legislation by Congress. Consumer demand for advanced wireless services is growing rapidly, and more spectrum must be made available for mobile services in order to meet consumers' needs. Today's action by chairman Genachowski and the commission is an important step toward achieving a successful incentive auction."

"To meet soaring consumer demand for mobile Internet services and to maintain a robust platform for innovative mobile services, rational spectrum policies and bold action are vital. The spectrum-related items adopted by the FCC today represent significant progress towards reaching these important goals," said AT&T vice president Joan Marsh.

"Wireless carriers need a clear and reliable understanding of when and under what circumstances spectrum acquisitions will be permitted, something we do not have today. With today's FCC action, spectrum policy can now be taken out of merger-specific proceedings, placed in an industry-wide, open and transparent proceeding, and ultimately subjected to judicial review."