Spectrum Auction Rules Get Fresh Look


The FCC voted unanimously Thursday to review and finalize rules on the reclamation, auctioning, and re-deployment of broadcast spectrum in the 700 mHz band.

It was one of two votes, both unanimous and collegial--advancing new forms of wireless broadband in competition to cable and telephone. The other was to tweak rules to promote provision of broadband over power lines (BPL).

As part of the transition to DTV, Congress charged the FCC with auctioning spectrum in the 700 mHz band for advanced wireless service and collect billions for the treasury.

It has been four years since the FCC began setting the ground rules for the reclamation, and it decided it was time to tweak those and get them set. The auction is less than two years--Jan. 28, 2008--away and companies seeking the spectrum need some regulatory certainty to raise capital and plan their services.

Among the questions raised in the FCC proposal are how to redivided the spectrum into smaller blocks so that more companies can bid on them, and how to keep spectrum from being warehoused, and whether the license term at auction--now extending to 2015--should be extended. The 700 mHz band won't be cleared until 2009.

Calling it the "granddaddy of all auctions," FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said it was important to begin the process of developing service rules if the government was to "reap the benefits of the beach-front property."

As with the BPL vote, Copps said it was important to get more competition to combat a "crisis" in broadband deployment.

As a sign of collegiality, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Copps were in agreement that it was important to divide the spectrum into smaller chunks and to spur build-outs.