Ajit Pai Promises Action on Smaller Spectrum Winners

Chairman says commission is required to take extra steps to confirm bidding credit status

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said they are working as fast as they can to vet and potentially approve the license transfers of smaller spectrum winners in the forward auction, which are mostly the ones that got bidding credits as small businesses or rural providers. 

The chairman told Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) at an FCC reauthorization hearing that one reason those license transfers had not been approved while those of the larger winners—T-Mobile, AT&T, Comcast, Dish and others—had was because there were additional steps the FCC was required to take to ensure those bidders were eligible for the credits. 

Clarke said the little guys always got short shrift, and she wished the FCC could "flip the script" so that the smaller entities could get some love. 

Pai said he had his commitment to prioritize wrapping up those reviews. He said the FCC would move "as quickly as we can" and keep her apprised, which appeared to satisfy the congresswoman.

Clarke also asked the chairman to commit that consumers would not lose service or have to spend money in the transition to the new ATSC 3.0 advanced broadcast transmission standard.

Pai said that most consumers have an ATSC 1.0 set (they are not compatible with 3.0) and that was why the FCC was not allowing a flash cut to the new standard, and its proposed approval of a transition would allow broadcasters to experiment with the new standard so long as a 1.0 signal was still available and viewable.

He did not commit to a vote on the ATSC 3.0 proposal before the end of the year but said that was the goal depending on where the facts led them, as was improving the standard.