Genachowski Suggests FCC Will Keep Moving Forward with Auction

Commission Does Not Commit to Holding New Round of Comment on Band Plan

In a press conference after the commission's March 20 public meeting, FCC commissioner Julius Genachowski did not given any indication of his future plans and would not say whether the agency would open up a new comment window on an incentive auction band plan that has been criticized by both broadcasters and wireless companies.

While FCC commissioner Robert McDowell announced that he would be stepping down in a few weeks -- though he did not say to do what -- that trend of announced exits did not extend to the chairman, who deflected a question about his own plans by saying it was McDowell's day. He praised the commissioner, then when pressed, noted: "The question has been asked and answered. No news to report and I have nothing to announce."

He spent a good deal more time not exactly responding to the question about the National Association of Broadcasters request that the FCC put the TV station post-repacking band plan up for an additional round of comment. NAB says the variable plan that has stations and wireless operators potential using the same channel in different markets is the wrong way to go. NAB incentive auction point man Rick Kaplan, former head of the FCC's Wireless Bureau, this week called for the new comments and said he expected the FCC would comply.

Genachowski was making no promises, and in fact sounded more like the FCC was not planning to change course.  He said that "everything that has happened since Congress passed the incentive auction has made me more optimistic about the opportunities of this new idea as we move forward," thought it was unclear whether he was talking about the band plan or the incentive auctions writ large.

But he ran through a list of things the FCC had proposed--that there was a spectrum crunch, that incentive auctions were a good idea, that Congress would pass legislation--that had succeeded despite the naysayers.

"There will continue to be healthy debate about it and the commission will keep moving forward," Genachowski said. "It is a big, exciting idea to free up very valuable, desirable spectrum for mobile broadband."

And while NAB said the FCC should not be in a hurry to hold the auctions given the outstanding issues over the band plan and international coordination and how the commission calculates interference and coverage areas, the chairman said Wednesday that it needs to get done "on a schedule that maximizes opportunity, so, as quick as we can."