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Eshoo ‘Not Highly Confident’ of 2014 Auction Deadline

WASHINGTON—Rep. Anna Eshoo, (D-Calif.) is “not highly confident” the Federal Communications Commission will meet the September 2014 deadline to conduct auctions of broadcast spectrum.

“I’m not highly confident, but I’m fairly confident” Eshoo said following a House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on “Equipping Carriers and Agencies in the Wireless Era” held June 27.

At that hearing, Eshoo, the ranking member, and Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, (R-Ore.), were asked by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, (R-Mich.), and Ranking Member Henry Waxman, (D-Cailf.), to oversee meetings on the reallocation of government-held spectrum conducted by the FCC, the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Agency.

Eshoo added that given she and Walden will oversee those monthly meetings, she expects her confidence that the auctions will occur by the deadline to increase.

“The work that the chairman and the ranking member of the full committee asked Greg Walden and I to take on will make sure that they are coordinated, to make sure there aren’t excuses, to make sure there isn’t finger pointing. That will hasten the outcome that we’re looking for,” Eshoo said.

In addition, monitoring the progress of the agencies tasked with producing the broadcast-spectrum auction “will up the confidence of the committee that the auctions can, and will take place at the appropriate time,” she said.

Nearly 60 percent of the spectrum within the 1,755-1,850 MHz band is held by federal agencies. The FCC has been directed to provide incentives to those agencies with unused spectrum to either relinquish or share that spectrum with wireless carriers who want those frequencies for smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices.

Estimates on how much the government can raise from spectrum auctions exceed $20 billion. The proceeds must pay for several set-asides before the remainder is submitted to the Treasury.

Nonetheless, a lack of progress and answers from the agencies involved has “frustrated” Eshoo, who grilled hearing witness Teri Takai, the DoD’s chief information officer, on those issues.

“We really want to see some movement and action in the right places,” Eshoo said to Takai before asking if the DoD has a cost estimate on the reallocation of 25 MHz of spectrum in the 1,755 and 1,780 MHz band.

“We have not done a cost estimate for only the 1,755 to 1,780 band in terms of the next steps on it,” said Takai, who added the DoD is waiting to hear from the FCC on if the auction will be “a two-stage auction.”

Eshoo then asked if the agencies “sit down and talk to each other?” And if the DoD has a commitment to reallocate spectrum and a cost estimate is needed, why wouldn’t the agencies “sit down and talk about it?” she said.

“I didn’t mean to give the impression we don’t sit and talk about it, we talk about it a lot,” Takai said.
However, Eshoo said when federal agencies meet, there needs to be an outcome. “You have meetings so we get something out of it and get something done,” she said.

Click here to view the hearing.