Spectrum Auction Update: Dingell Pleased with Results

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Happy with Proceeds from Federal Communications Commission’s 700-MHz Auction 2/08/2008 12:00:00 AM Eastern

House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said Friday that he was pleased that the reserve prices for most of the five blocks of spectrum being auctioned by the Federal Communications Commission have met their reserve prices, but he remained concerned about the D block.

John Dingell

The FCC is auctioning approximately 62 megahertz of spectrum in the 700-MHz band being reclaimed from TV stations in the migration to digital broadcasting. It set minimum bids because Congress needed at least $10 billion to pay for some programs, including the digital-TV-to-analog converter-box subsidy, and to contribute the rest to the treasury. Bids are nearing $20 billion.

But the spectrum is also being auctioned to make it available for advanced wireless services, for which its signal-propagation properties make it particularly well suited.

“I am closely following the ongoing 700-MHz spectrum auction," Dingell said in a statement Friday. "I am pleased that the auction proceeds have already far exceeded most reserve prices set by the FCC, and I am particularly pleased that the reserve price for the C block has been met, thus triggering the pro-consumer open-access provisions.”

Four of the five blocks have met their reserves (A, B, C and E), according to an FCC spokeswoman, with only the D block languishing with only one bid hardly more than one-third of its $1.3 billion reserve price.

"We now know that only the D block may not sell in this auction," Dingell said. "The construction of a nationwide, next-generation, interoperable broadband network for public safety is a crucial policy objective, and the need for such a network has not diminished. I intend to work closely with the commission, public safety and industry as this process continues.”

The D block is being sold as a package of licenses sufficient for a national network, but one that must be shared with first-responders.

The C block is also enough for a national network, but at last look, the high bid was the aggregate of bids on the eight separate regions, rather than as a package. In either case, the spectrum has conditions on it that require the winner to make the spectrum open to outside applications and devices.

At press time, after 50 rounds and a little more than two weeks, bids totaled $19.207 billion, with the C-block bids totaling $4.838 billion (its floor price was $4.6 billion) and no new bids on the D block since a single company's round-one bid of $472 million.