Commissioners discuss incentive auctions


FCCActing Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn believes getting the incentive auction done plan right is as important as simply getting it done – and in that she is in total agreement with the often-stated position of the NAB. She and her colleagues commented on progress made to that end.

Clyburn noted that there have been more than 180 events related to the program that commissioners and FCC staff have participated in as they attempt to provide the maximum transparency possible. And she stressed the need for “well-developed options” for the commissioners who ultimately have to vote yea or nay.

Clyburn is taking steps to encourage transparency. “I have also directed the Task Force to continue to conduct workshops, which will provide further opportunities to continue and expand the public discussion that has proven so vital to this process. I look forward to the next workshop in September,” she stated.

Ajit Pai stressed the development of repacking software that will allow the FCC “to ensure that broadcasters receive the protections afforded to them by the Spectrum Act.” To that end, he suggested broadcast and wireless interests work toward a compromise as rapidly as possible. He also praised the level of cooperation between the two groups.

Pai also stated, “It is also important that we develop as soon as possible software that can produce optimal repacking solutions—that is, software that minimizes the costs of paying bidders and repacking while ensuring that every non-participating broadcaster has an actual channel after the auction. All things being equal, an optimal repack should be our goal. After all, this could minimize costs, maximize the amount of cleared spectrum, and increase net revenues for public safety and deficit reduction.”

Jessica Rosenworcel believes that a series of en banc hearings would be helpful – they would allow stakeholders to make presentations to the commissioners and give the commissioners a chance to ask questions. She also called for a “general calendar” that spells out which decisions have been made and which are pending.

Most importantly, she advocated a focus on the top 30 markets where the spectrum crunch is most severe and called for special efforts in those locations. Rosenworcel stated, “As has been said before, we do not want to hold a party and have no one show up. Voluntary participation is essential. I continue to believe that reaching out directly to every broadcaster in the top 30 markets in this country is prudent. After all, this is where our mobile broadband needs are the greatest. I also think we should help develop a channel sharing pilot in advance of the auction. This could be accomplished with either commercial or noncommercial stations. Let us demonstrate upfront that sharing is truly viable. Some stakeholders have suggested that the Commission could ease regulatory burdens on broadcasters that commit in advance to participate in the auctions. I know there are knotty legal issues here, but I think we should untangle them—because creative ideas should be encouraged and this Commission should respond by acting quickly and being creative in return.”