Washington Weighs in On Auction Move

Comments generally supportive of pushing auction to mid-2015 to make sure FCC gets it right

RELATED: FCC's Wheeler: Incentive Auction Will Be Mid-2015

Stakeholders and policymakers were reacting Friday to the news, signaled earlier in the week, that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was re-setting the FCC auction timetable. Virtually all were supportive of Wheeler's move.

“The 600 MHz incentive auction is by far the most complex auction proceeding ever undertaken anywhere in the world," said Joan Marsh, VP of federal regulatory, AT&T, who called the move "prudent and reasonable."

"The Commission must persuade two different sets of auction bidders to participate in two separate but interrelated auctions. While those auctions proceed, the Commission must conduct a dynamic repacking analysis that protects and repacks the broadcasters that remain. The enormous complexity of this task cannot be overstated. While AT&T is eager to see new spectrum allocations brought to market as soon as practical, we appreciate the enormity of the task the Commission faces and believe that it is essential that time be taken to get it right. The schedule the Chairman announced today to develop a robust policy and systems framework for the auction is both prudent and reasonable and AT&T looks forward to continuing to work with the FCC on this important proceeding.”

"NAB appreciates Chairman Wheeler's decision to set new goals for the Commission's incentive auction timeline," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "As NAB has long maintained, given the complexity of the auction and its many moving parts, the most important goal is to get the auction done right. We look forward to continuing our efforts with the Commission and industry stakeholders as we work towards achieving a successful auction that delivers spectrum for broadband while ensuring a vibrant future for broadcasting."

“I agree with Chairman Wheeler that a successful incentive auction of the broadcast television spectrum must be the FCC's top priority," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC. "I commend the Chairman for laying out an aggressive, yet achievable time frame for the auction. I also appreciate his commitment in ensuring all the procedural and technical challenges will be fully addressed before the auction takes place. I look forward to working with the Commission to achieve Congress' directives to promote a vibrant, competitive wireless marketplace while providing a down payment for the nationwide interoperable public safety network that our first responders deserve.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said: “I applaud Chairman Wheeler for putting forward a well-thought out plan to successfully implement the world’s first incentive auction of broadcast television spectrum. The timeline outlined by the Chairman recognizes the complexity of the task at-hand and ensures a path forward for meeting our nation’s growing demand for wireless broadband.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, had no comment at press time, but a committee spokesperson said the move is sure to come up at next week's FCC oversight hearing in the subcommittee.

“This is a complex process involving many stakeholders and the FCC needs to be as thorough and fair as possible," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), former chair of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee and one of the most experienced telecom legislators in the country.

“We are pleased that Chairman Wheeler and the Commission staff will take the time to thoroughly test the proposed operating systems and software associated with the complicated and unprecedented incentive auction," said Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS). We also appreciate the Chairman’s transparency in sharing this timing with the affected industries.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.) was not available for comment at press time, but the issue is sure to be a big topic of conversation at his incentive auction oversight hearing next week.

"Our Coalition commends Chairman Wheeler for getting on top of the incentive auction issues so quickly and for setting a thoughtful and realistic schedule.  We also commend the Auction Task Force that has worked so hard to get us this far," said Preston Padden, executive director, Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition in a statement. Padden represents 70-plus stations willing to give up spectrum at the right price point.

"Wireless carriers are bumping up against spectrum constraints that can only be met with more equipment (which raises incremental costs) or higher prices (to manage the congestion directly),"says Hal Singer, senior fellow, at the Progressive Policy Institute. "Both options lead to higher prices, which is bad news for wireless consumers. Ideally,  we could free up additional spectrum as quickly as possible." But, he adds: "If 2015 is the soonest possible to conduct an open, well-run auction, then I understand the delay."

Like Padden, Singer has been tapped by the Senate Commerce Committee to talk about the incentive auction next week at an oversight hearing.

CTIA: The Wireless Association appeared fine with moving the date.

“CTIA welcomes FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s announcement of the FCC’s Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction timeline," said CTIA President Steve Largent. "As CTIA has previously stressed, the incentive auction is essential to unleashing necessary additional spectrum for mobile broadband. I commend Chairman Wheeler for his efforts to advance this important proceeding and his commitment to conducting this critical auction by middle of 2015.”

Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, echoed the sentiment that it was better to get it done right than right now.

“Today, the FCC sent a clear message regarding the importance of moving forward with predictability regarding our nation’s spectrum assets. Getting the spectrum incentive auction right is as important as getting it done.  One of the keys to getting it right is to ensure open participation for all interested bidders committed to making this significant investment in our nation’s mobile future.”

“T-Mobile appreciates that the FCC has a complex task ahead of it implementing the 600 MHz Incentive Auction," said Kathleen Ham, VP of federal regulatory affairs for T-Mobile.  "We are very supportive of getting it right and will work with the FCC to ensure the auction is a success, promoting competition, innovation and consumer benefit.”