Hundt: Genachowski Doing Great Job on Incentive Auctions

Says Many TV Stations with Small Audiencea Would be Happy on Cable
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Reed Hundt, who oversaw the first spectrum auction, says he thinks current FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is doing "a great job" running the commission's current incentive auction, which is currently still in the planning stages. Genachowski is a former top aide to Hundt.

Hundt, the former FCC commisioner and Blair Levin, the ex-chief of staff and more recently National Broadband Plan architect, whose plan proposed the auction, were on C-SPAN's Communicators talking about their new e-book, The Politics of Abundance.

Hundt conceded that one had to be a "game theorist" rather than a "mere lawyer" to understand all the intricacies of the incentive auction -- which is a double-sided auction. But he said the main thing was that it was not difficult to bring about profound change if "you really focus on it."

Hundt said the "big change" is that there are "an awful lot of over-the-air broadcast signals that are reaching almost no one from stations that have almost no audience and would be just as happy to be on cable TV." Hundt has said that he decided in 1994, when he was chairman, that the Internet should be the common medium of the nation and broadcasting should not be.

He said that spectrum could be used for smartphones instead. He conceded the change would be "tricky" given that you have to "strike a balance," but that the change itself is "pretty simple."

The result, he predicted, would be tens of billions of dollars of new private sector investment pouring into that new opportunity. "That's the cool thing."

"We have to have faster, cheaper broadband if we want to be at the forefront of innovation," said Levin, who is currently with the Aspen Institute. Levin says that all government services should be moved online -- it could save a trillion dollars -- but that to do that "everyone needs to be online. We can't leave anyone behind," he said.

The FCC is working on getting a final framework for the auctions done this year, and the auctions completed by the end of 2014, though Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake has conceded that is an ambitious target.