A bipartisan group of members of the US House of Representatives acknowledged that they are considering the authorization of spectrum auctions to pave the way for new uses in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. But they said first things first: Provide an accurate and comprehensive spectrum inventory so they know precisely what they are dealing with.
Noting the possibility of auctions, they wrote, “As we move forward, it would be beneficial to have a comprehensive inventory of the nation’s airwaves – both governmental and commercial – so, as legislators, we have a complete picture of who is licensed to use what airwaves and how effectively they are being used. In the last Congress, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill which would have provided a framework for the Commission to initiate such an inventory.”
The continued, “Additionally, a voluntary incentive auction arrangement will need to address several questions. If a licensee opts to participate in a voluntary incentive auction, what will be the effect on those licensees who opt to retain their spectrum? Where and how will they be relocated? Will there be assurances to those licensees that their new channels will be as strong and robust as their previous channels? How do you plan to protect and educate those viewers who rely on existing over-the-air services?”
Those signing the letter included Greg Walden (R-OR), Joe Barton (R-TX), Robert Latta (R-OH), John Barrow (D-GA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Charlie Bass (R-NH), Gene Green (D-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
The actual letter can be read here.
RBR-TVBR observation: The electro-magnetic spectrum belongs to the people, who express their will via various federal, state and local governments. Many in the federal government, where spectrum issues will be decided, are gung ho about reining in expenditures of any kind. The idea that they will cut volunteering broadcasters in on the proceeds of an auction of spectrum that never really belonged to them in the first place has to be met with a great deal of skepticism.
We can see members of Congress on both sides of the political spectrum having serious doubts about a payday for broadcasters who agree to give up spectrum. On the left, they will be aghast that businesses already earning money via public property are now getting yet another windfall. On the right, they will be aghast that money is going to anything whatsoever other than deficit reduction.
In short, it seems to us that the spectrum auction idea as conceived by the FCC would likely face a great deal of opposition in Congress. If the FCC really wants to move ahead with the National Broadband Plan as swiftly as possible, completing the spectrum inventory and placing currently fallow spectrum in the front of the line for broadband purposes would seem to make a great deal of sense, especially since ISPs are already sitting on a great deal of it.