FCC Wants To Keep Authority over Spectrum Auctions Despite Concerns from AT&T, Verizon

By Ed Silverstein January 18, 2012

The Federal Communications Commission doesn’t want to lose its authority to give out spectrum for broadcast television – in an effort some say is an attack on Verizon and AT&T.

With some proposals now before Congress, the FCC appears to be resisting any efforts to give the commission “direction or to establish any checks and balances on the FCC in authorizing incentive auctions of prime TV broadcast spectrum,” according to a recent analysis from Forbes.

Scott Cleland, president of Precursor LLC, wrote in Forbes that, “an unelected FCC … is trying to tell Congress to abandon its Constitutional role and delegate unbounded revenue-raising authority to the FCC.”

He said that the FCC wants to be able to “pick-and-choose who can and cannot be eligible to bid in ways that would sub-optimize the value and utility of the spectrum and also shortchange the U.S. taxpayer by many more billions of dollars in foregone auction revenues.”

Looking more closely at the issue, Cleland claimed the FCC wanted to prevent big players such as Verizon and AT&T from bidding on broadcast TV spectrum.

His concerns come as AT&T has warned that federal regulators may “radically” change the “rights to airwaves to meet growing demand for smartphones and tablet computers,” Bloomberg News reported.

“The FCC might actually design auction rules that radically restrict AT&T’s ability to participate in these auctions,” Robert Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president-federal regulatory affairs, said in a statement made to Bloomberg.

But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski claimed a proposal now before Congress “would prevent the agency from exercising its traditional prerogative to set terms for auction participation,” Bloomberg said.

“It would not be wise to prejudge or micromanage FCC auction design,” Genachowski added at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In his analysis of the issue, TechZone360’s Peter Bernstein pointed out that the auction system was “supposed to create a healthy competitive environment.” But he says the dominance of AT&T and Verizon leads one to ask “whether auctions lead to robust competition” and that also questions “the quality of FCC stewardship.”

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Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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