Architect of Broadcast Spectrum Auction Honored for Public Service

(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—Evan Kwerel, Ph.D., Senior Economic Advisor in the FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics, has received the prestigious Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal from the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that honors individuals and organizations in the public domain. 

Shortly after arriving at the FCC in 1983, Kwerel wrote a white paper suggesting that the commission allocate scared spectrum resources through auctions. Congress authorized auction of the spectrum in 1993 and the first first-ever simultaneous multi-round spectrum auction was held in 1994, but it wasn't until 2017—after years of debate and lobbying between broadcast and cellular companies (who would be the recipients of the broadcast spectrum being auctioned)—that the first ever auctions of the public airwaves would be conducted. 

The structure of the FCC market-based spectrum auctions of broadcast TV spectrum that took place in 2017 were conceived and implemented by Kwerel based on many of the theories of 2020 Nobel Prize-winning economists Paul Milgrom and Bob Wilson, according to the Partnership for Public Service.

The auctions raised gross revenues of $19.8 billion with $10 billion going to local broadcasters when it wrapped up in March 2017.  

 FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued the following statement:

“You can’t properly tell the story of spectrum auctions without talking about Evan Kwerel.  In 1985, Evan wrote a white paper suggesting that the Commission should allocate spectrum through auctions.  In 1993, Congress gave the FCC the authority to conduct spectrum auctions and Evan drafted the Commission’s rules and led its auction design effort.  In 1994, the Commission successfully executed the first-ever simultaneous multi-round spectrum auction.  Since then, the FCC has completed over 100 spectrum auctions, and this model has been adopted for spectrum auctions around the world.

“In 2002, Evan would again help engineer a first-of-its-kind auction by co-authoring a white paper that outlined what became the broadcast incentive auction.  In 2017, the FCC concluded the world’s first incentive auction, reallocating broadcast spectrum to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband. 

“Words can’t quantify the impact of Evan’s work nearly as effectively as the numbers do.  The spectrum auctions he helped pioneer have added over $200 billion to the U.S. Treasury.  And those very same auctions have helped to unlock more than $1 trillion in benefits for the American people.

“On behalf of everyone at the FCC and of the American people, I thank Evan for his public service, and congratulate him on winning a Service to America Medal.”

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.