House Majority Outlines FCC Oversight Hearing Focus

Spectrum, IP, universal service all top of mind

According to the majority staff memo for the Dec. 12 FCC oversight hearing in the House Communications subcommittee, the top issues for Republicans are the broadcast incentive auctions, government spectrum policy, universal service, and the IP transition.

The subcommittee is scheduled to hear from all five commissioners.

On the incentive auction front, the memo says the FCC has not answered a number of fundamental questions. Those include "broadcast station valuation," coordination with Canada and Mexico on border issues, and suggestions that the FCC may limit the aggregation of low-band spectrum.

The memo also makes a point of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s move to delay the auction timetable, pointing out that “recently, Chairman Wheeler stated that although the broadcast incentive auction is among his top priorities, the Commission will aim for an auction in 2015, one year later than Chairman Genachowski’s planned timeline.”

But the statute also gave the FCC until 2022 to complete the auction process, so the commission is not pushing up against a deadline. It does have to auction 65 MHz of spectrum by February 2015, with the first of two auctions coming next month.

On the issue of limiting bidders, the memo points out that the incentive auction legislation prohibits the FCC from preventing participation in the auction if an interested bidder complies with the statutory requirements. However, some commenters are advocating for auction rules that would restrict the ability of certain bidders to participate in the incentive auction based on the amount of spectrum that is currently licensed to the bidder."

The memo points out that Greg Walden (R-Ore.) chairman of the subcommittee, and Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have both asked the FCC to follow the language of the spectrum auction legislation and make sure the spectrum is available to "any qualified bidder."