Economists Plug Incentive Auctions at White House Event
April 6, 2011
WASHINGTON: The Obama
Administration’s campaign to reassign broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband
is now focused on securing Congressional authorization for incentive auctions. The
White House today hosted an summit on the issue, inviting a bevy of economists,
Federal Communications Chief Julius Genachowski, and no broadcasters.
Genachowski said incentive auctions were “the single most important step we can
take” to free up spectrum.
Gregory Rosston, deputy director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy
Research brought with him a
signed by 112 economists “who specialize in telecommunications, auction theory
and design, and/or competitive policy.”
“We understand that Congress is considering legislation that would give the FCC
explicit authority to run ‘incentive auctions’ in which it would have the
ability to distribute some portion of the auction proceeds to licensees who
voluntarily give up their license rights,” it reads. “We support such an effort
and think it would increase spectrum efficiency in the United States.”
The administration’s National Broadband Plan proposes that broadcasters who
relinquish spectrum receive a cut of the resulting auction proceeds. The scheme
would require Congressional authorization, which has not yet been deemed a slam
dunk, particularly with broadcast and wireless lobbies duking it out in
National Association of Broadcasters chief Gordon Smith called out Dish Network
and Time Warner Cable in January for sitting on unused spectrum. Smith asked
lawmakers to investigate. Wireless industry lobby chief Steve Largent said Smith’s
tactic was “baffling,” and reiterated his constituents’ need for more spectrum.
So far on Capitol Hill, Fred Upton (R-Mich.), head of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, has said a spectrum bill in the House would “
include incentive auction authority. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D.
Rockefeller (D-W.V.) offered a
bill to do so in the Senate in January. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and
Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced a bill
last month authorizing incentive auctions but also ordering a spectrum
Lawmakers were urged by the economists at today’s White House event to trust
the FCC to get the incentive auction rules right, according to
Valley. However, the commission hasn’t historically been in the best
graces of Congress, which often drags the commissioners up the Hill to explain
themselves. They were hauled up in February for a grilling about their rules on
network neutrality, about which lawmakers generally are divided down the aisle.
With regard to spectrum, Upton said the commission was “
by Google in 2008 when the search giant submitted a spectrum bid crafted to
open white spaces.
~ Deborah D. McAdams