U.S. CongressSen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wants to know what mileposts the FCC needs to hit en route to spectrum auctions by 2/22/15. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski cheerfully passed the query on to the Incentive Auction Task Force, which basically said the question was unanswerable.

In a 3/29/12 letter to Genachowski, Hatch indicated his strong interest in bringing in cash to defray the national debt, and wanted to make sure that the FCC was staying on task to bring into the Treasury the income from spectrum auctions, all while avoiding over-engineering the process. “Please inform me in writing when I can expect to see a report detailing how the spectrum at issue will be cleared, what parameters will be used to repack current licensees and how the incentive auctions will proceed.”

Responding 6/12/12 on Genachowski’s behalf, IATF’s Gary M. Epstein basically said nobody has any idea what will happen when. “Since the Commission is in the early stages of implementing the incentive auction legislation, I cannot say when we will be able to provide you with the report that you request outlining anticipated milestones. However, I will be glad to keep you informed of Commission progress on these auction proceedings. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.”

RBR-TVBR observation: For starters, we hope that the 2/22/15 date is written in virtual pencil – a lot can happen between now and then, and given the way the federal government works, a lot simply won’t happen, at least not according to any one person’s schedule.

This is particularly true of the plan to auction off television spectrum – there are so many moving parts to that project – and so many courtrooms to which disgruntled stakeholders may resort – that we have to believe 2/22/15 is much more a target than a deadline.

And now for something completely different: We can see here one reason that the FCC gave Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) such a hard time when he was in hot pursuit of LightSquared documents. The nature of the communications industry that the FCC regulates is such that any senator or representative on virtually any congressional committee might find one reason or another to make a demand on the Commission. Here, Sen. Hatch is using his connection to Finance to ask for an FCC report.

At some point this must have been a problem, and the FCC can point to Congress’s own rules instructing it to fully honor requests only from members of the appropriate oversight committee, in the FCC’s case, the two Commerce committees.

It’s hard enough to get anything done in Washington, and it will be very hard to hit that 2/22/15 date – and it will be impossible if the FCC spends the next two and a half years writing various reports for up to 535 legislators.