In his opening statement for Tuesday's hearing on the FCC's
incentive auctions, House Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden
(R-Ore.) said the key to getting the auction right for broadcasters and
wireless companies is that broadcasters exiting the business should get market
value for their stations, that broadcasters remaining in the businesses get
certainty about their continued viability, and that wireless companies be
"courted as participants not subjected to economic manipulation."
Walden said that certainty for broadcasters means they will
not be interfered with by stations in Canada and Mexico, and that the FCC
should take into account unique challenges like those of low-power translators,
which boost TV signals over tough terrain to hard-to-reach places.
Walden warned the FCC against auction conditions that
discourage participation under the guise of engineering an ostensibly pro-competitive
outcome. "Recently, some have suggested that the FCC can place
restrictions on auction participation without any adverse impact on auction
proceeds. Let me be clear: it would be folly at best for the FCC to think that
it could know better than a true market-based auction the maximum amount the
auction could raise," he said.
Those include a group of Senators, who last week wrote the
FCC to advise it that such conditions were not inconsistent with a competitive
auction. The Department of Justice has also come out in favor of local market
spectrum limits that could limit the bidding in some areas by the largest
"A carefully crafted auction that recognizes the value
of participation and has the humility to let the market decide the value of
spectrum will best serve all of the goals of the legislation," Walden
Walden also put in a plug for a band plan backed
by the National Association of Broadcasters, Verizon and AT&T. "I am encouraged
that a large portion of the industry -- and broadcasters -- seems to be
coalescing around a band plan that promotes competition and maximizes auction
proceeds," he says. "I would like to have seen the FCC focus on these
aspects in their recent public notice on band plans."