Committee Leaders Express Concern With DOJ’s Advocacy for Restricted Spectrum Auction

April 22, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders are concerned with a Department of Justice filing suggesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should limit participation in spectrum auctions authorized by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act. In a letter to the FCC, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) explained that DOJ’s suggestions were not consistent with the goals articulated by Congress in the law, and that if adopted, the FCC will reduce the potential revenues from the auction and possibly even cause the auction to fail.

In the letter to the FCC, the members wrote, “When Congress authorized the Commission in the Spectrum Act to conduct an incentive auction of broadcast spectrum, we had several goals in mind.  We certainly wanted the Commission to design an auction that would make more spectrum available to wireless carriers to meet soaring demand for mobile broadband use.  But, as is clear from the statutory language, we also expected the incentive auction to generate sufficient revenues to compensate television broadcasters that wish to voluntarily relinquish spectrum, to pay for the possible relocation of television stations that remain on air, to cover the cost of the auction, to contribute up to $7 billion toward the construction of a nationwide public safety broadband network, and to reduce this nation’s unacceptable budget deficit. The DOJ submission appears oblivious to these multiple goals.”

The members continued, “The Commission should focus on the capacity constraints faced by all wireless carriers, rather than upon the DOJ’s unsubstantiated speculation about the theoretical incentives that carriers may or may not have.  The reality is that the U.S. market is characterized by competition for bandwidth-hungry consumers and the exponential growth in the demand for spectrum caused by smartphones and tablets. 

“We hope and expect that the Commission will implement the Spectrum Act as Congress intended.  The spectrum vacated by broadcasters participating in the incentive auction should be available to any qualified bidder; the Commission should not pick winners and losers before the auction even commences.”

Read the letter online HERE.

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