Powell appoints spectrum task force

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Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell Thursday
appointed a spectrum-policy task force to resolve the spectrum crunch -- a move
that sparked criticism from two commissioners.

The new task force was created to help the FCC devise policies that will
encourage more efficient use of communications spectrum and alleviate the
shortage of frequencies available for new technologies.

Paul Kolodzy, senior spectrum-policy advisor for the Office of Engineering
and Technology, will lead the task force.

The task force issued a public notice with 28 policy questions on a range of
issues comprising the panel's tentative work plan. To lead off the questionnaire,
the task force asked for specific policy and rule changes needed to migrate from
current spectrum-allocation methods to "more market-oriented" allocation
approaches.

Also on the list:

  • Should broadcasters and other incumbent licenses have
    flexibility to offer new services on their existing spectrum?
  • How would interference rights of incumbents and new
    licensees be redefined under flexibility?
  • Should broadcasters and other licenses issued for
    specific transmitter sites be converted to geographic-area licenses?
  • What, if anything, should be done to restructure spectrum held by
    incumbents in order to reduce transactions costs and avoid strategic
    holdouts?

Commissioners Kevin Martin and Michael Copps complained that the
questionnaire was not vetted with the other commissioners and could frame the
initial debate in ways that conflict with views of a commission majority. The
two commissioners said comment should have been sought via a notice of inquiry
approved by the full commission.

"We fear that the approach used here could ultimately lead to greater delay
because it will require at least one additional round of comment before the
commission itself even begins to engage in the issues," they said in a prepared
statement.

Powell, however, doesn't see the latest round of questions any differently
than roundtables and other public forums held to discuss spectrum policy and he
is simply attempting to gather input that would be helpful in crafting a future
inquiry, said an FCC spokesman.

Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) president David Donovan said spectrum policy is "a
hot issue" for broadcasters and his group plans to be actively involved in the
debate.

Comments are due July 8; replies July 23.

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