FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says the FCC has learned
enough about spectrum to know it needs to "incentivize" some
commercial users to give it up for mobile wireless broadband.
That message came in a speech Wednesday and a
just-released letter from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to Sen.
Olympia Snowe (R-Me.). The chairman has been stumping for incentive
auction authority from Congress, but Snowe had written him saying the FCC needed to first take the "fundamental step" of
completing an inventory of spectrum, decrying what she said was the FCC's
In response, Genachowski said that the FCC had
completed "one of the most substantial and comprehensive evaluations of
spectrum in the Commission's history." That includes its Spectrum
Dashboard (an updated version is being released this month, he said). The FCC
has identified what bands of spectrum are used for, who holds the
licenses, where the licenses are and other information.
Genachowski said he supported her suggestion of
exploring ways to "more exhaustively" inventory spectrum, including
use, but said measuring actual use was not necessary to identify "primary
opportunities for unleashing additional commercial spectrum." He also said
the FCC faced the challenge of determining whether a use study was worth the
tens of millions of dollars and several years it would take to complete.
At a speech at a mobile broadband spectrum forum in Washington
earlier Tuesday marking the year anniversary of the release of the National
Broadband Plan, the chairman said that the inventory had been completed and
that it told the commission "more than enough to conclude that incentive
auctions are an essential item to add to the FCC's toolkit. "
He said that inventory had confirmed that there were
"no hidden vacant lots of commercial airwaves" being sat on by cable
or satellite users, and said "We certainly know more than enough about
existing spectrum uses to move forward with a mechanism that would simply bring
new market-based options to these bands."
The National Association of Broadcasters, which has asked
Congress to investigate reports of spectrum hoarding, Wednesday called on the
FCC to produce the data showing their was no spectrum lying fallow.
"The FCC is an independent agency and we have completed
our baseline spectrum inventory. The information is available online in the
FCC's Spectrum Dashboard
and LicenseView," said FCC spokesman Rob
Kenny. "It tells us where the opportunities are to address the imminent
Genachowski had also explained in his speech that just
because the spectrum had not been built out didn't' mean those holding it were
hoarding it. Every spectrum license has build-out requirements. "While
there are these allegations that there is hoarding going on," said an FCC
official speaking on background, "nobody has come to the commission and
said 'here are people who are in violation of the terms of their license
because they haven't built out. A far as we are aware, nobody is violating the
terms of their license."
The source said the commission takes those deadlines
seriously, but pointed out that it takes time to get the capital and build the
towers and the other facilities, and for manufacturers to make equipment that
works on those facilities. "It is not: 'OK, you bought the spectrum today,
you better have it up and running tomorrow.'"
"The FCC statement is a disappointing response to Congress, which is seeking a thorough spectrum inventory," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "The question is not whether the FCC can identify locations and licenses on the spectrum dashboard that have been set aside for specific services. The real issue is whether specific companies that bought or were given spectrum worth billions have actually deployed it."