FCC's Wheeler Plans Incentive Auction, Reservation of Low-Band Spectrum

By Josh Long Comments
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"That investment facilitates innovation that happens across the whole wireless ecosystem," he said. "It allows the innovation of new devices, of new operating systems, the applications and that's what spectrum allows, facilitates."

Of the 3000 MHz of spectrum in the United States that is ideal for mobile broadband deployment, only 500 MHz is licensed for commercial broadband use, he said. Bergmann said more than 60 percent of the spectrum is allocated to the government while 300 MHz is used for over-the-air broadcast, a business whose viewership has been precipitously declining thanks to cable and satellite TV and Internet alternatives like Netflix and Hulu.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has raised concerns over the effect of the FCC's auction on broadcasters' rights. In an April 4 FCC filing, NAB said the agency has proposed changes to a methodology governing preservation of coverage areas and populations served by broadcast stations. The FCC has proposed a different methodology in its TVStudy than the one provided for under a 2012 law known as the Spectrum Act, according to NAB.

"OET’s proposal to adopt a novel methodology for predicting coverage and interference in the incentive auction proceeding is representative of a troubling trend of misuse of delegated authority within the Commission," NAB argued in the filing.

Through its written order, the FCC will likely attempt to address broadcasters' concerns because the success of the auction is largely dependent on their willingness to participate. Wheeler said last week that broadcasters' voluntary participation in the auction doesn't mean they will have to exit the TV business.

"New channel-sharing technologies offer broadcasters a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an infusion of cash to expand their business model and explore new innovations, while continuing to provide their traditional services to consumers," he wrote in his blog. "We will ensure that broadcasters have all of the information they need to make informed business decisions about whether and how to participate."

Proceeds from the auction won't go entirely to broadcasters. Part of the funds will support the construction of a nationwide public safety broadband network known as FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority) and next-generation 911 research, Bergmann said. Money also will be earmarked for the Treasury Department to reduce the national deficit, he said.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 created FirstNet as an independent agency within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that advises President Obama on telecommunications and information policy issues.

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