Reed Hundt tells Congress to leave the FCC alone regarding spectrum auctions

Former FCC chairman Reed Hundt has warned Congress to leave the FCC alone when it comes to auctioning spectrum.

"If there is one thing that all should agree that the much-maligned FCC has done well since the early 1990s, under Democratic and Republican chairs, it is spectrum auctions," said Hundt, who was FCC chairman from 1993 to 1997, serving mostly in Bill Clinton's presidential term.

In an op-ed for "Talking Points," Hundt said the Republican majority wants to "condition, limit and micromanage, and almost certainly foul up" the spectrum auction process.

Republicans in the House passed legislation on the spectrum auctions that would tell the FCC how to sell spectrum, Hundt said. "It would tell the FCC who should be allowed to bid. It would tell the FCC not to grant spectrum for the unlicensed uses that include, for example, the way many people use Wi-Fi to connect from their laptop to a router in or near their cable box.

"It would even tell the FCC how to hold auctions. In all these respects, Congress would break, by pretending to fix, the methods and techniques that the FCC has perfected, for the benefit of the taxpayers and to the envy of every spectrum agency in the world," the former FCC chairman wrote.

Hundt noted that both Republicans and Democrats agree that the spectrum auctions should occur. "What the country should want is for the Congress to get out of the way and let the FCC, the premier spectrum auction authority in the world, figure out how and when to hold the auctions," he wrote.

In 1993, when Hundt was chairman, Congress gave the FCC the authority to sell spectrum on the open market. The FCC then held the first spectrum auctions in any country other than New Zealand.

"By using auctions to jumpstart competition, we were able to deregulate wireless at the same time, telling states not to set wireless prices," he said. "We raised in one auction alone more than $7 billion for the taxpayers. That was a check I was proud to give the president. Not just the auctions, but the explosion of investment that followed led to a boom in wireless that has now reached four billion people worldwide."