White House Fighting Northpoint on Auction

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The Bush administration said Monday that it "strongly opposes" legislation on the Senate floor this week that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from auctioning spectrum that Northpoint Technology Ltd. wants free-of-charge to offer competition to cable and satellite providers.

Denying the FCC auction authority would "provide an undeserved windfall" for "one company" estimated at $100 million, the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement regarding a $38.4 billion spending bill that includes the FCC's fiscal-2004 budget.

"Auction-based spectrum policy has been a mainstay of wireless services for a decade," the OMB said. "Interfering with the efficient allocation of federal spectrum licenses by directing the award of licenses to a particular company would undermine the federal auction system and establish a damaging precedent."

However, the OMB did not state whether President Bush's advisers would recommend a veto of the bill if the Northpoint provision remained in it.

"It is surprising that the administration is promoting a licensing policy that favors one technology over another," Northpoint executive vice president Antoinette Cook Bush said in a prepared statement.
"Competitive bidding has not been used to allocate satellite licenses since 1997," she added. "Since that time, over 500 satellite licenses have been issued without auction to numerous companies, many of which provide satellite-TV and broadband services. Any company seeking a license to share the same frequencies as satellites should be licensed by the same rules."

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