—There’s a great
deal of focus on the
taking place 10 months
from now. Congress is having hearings
on it more often than L.A. Metro trains
run. It is evoked as—“groundbreaking,”
There is definitely a self-congratulatory
tone, apparently over thinking it up. Details
remain sketchy, as in nonexistent. So
Congress and regulators are barreling headlong
into a groundbreaking, unprecedented,
historic undertaking by the seat of their pants.
Very little is being said about what
happens after the auction. This could be due
in part to the aforementioned nonexistent
details, one of which includes potential
If the licenses offered at auction don’t
cover their own incentive costs, auction
administrative costs and the expense of
repacking the TV spectrum—there will be no
auction, according to the Spectrum Act.
There’s not great concern here, however,
because some of those expenses can be
massaged, and would total just a few billion
bucks either way. But Congress needs more
than a break-even auction. Our friends on
the Hill put more than $20 billion in auction
proceeds toward extended unemployment
19 months ago. Thus, a wee bit of hysteria
is creeping into the spectrum hearings. All
told, there’s around $29 billion allocated
from TV spectrum auction proceeds—
before broadcaster incentives, and what
any ordinary household budget must
accommodate: Unforeseen circumstances.
The Department of Defense, for example,
is holding 25 MHz hostage for $3.5 billion.
The DoD said it would move into—guess
where!—BAS frequencies. How much will
that displacement cost, and whom?
The extent of unanticipated expenses
hasn’t been considered, much less the cost
of building the wireless broadband network
that’s supposed to be the impetus for the
auction in the first place. Nor has Congress
considered who’s going to pay for it.
Ha ha. Just kidding. We know who’s going
to pay for it.
(Image by Scott Nazelrod.)