Wireless pushing for another FCC delay

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The wireless industry is pushing another delay in the government's plan to auction TV channels 60-69.

The FCC Friday asked for public comment on Verizon Wireless's request to postpone the March 6 bidding. Verizon said a delay is needed because it and other bidders on separate broadband PCS spectrum currently being auctioned will need additional time to assess their interest in buying additional frequencies. Verizon also noted that the FCC is still crafting spectrum clearing rules to quickly get broadcasters off the 700 MHz band where channels 60-69 are located and bidders will have a difficult time assessing the value until they know how much it will cost them to remove the broadcasters.

The government is trying to identify other spectrum also suitable for "third generation" uses like mobile Internet that the potential 700 MHz bidders are planning. "The FCC should not auction the 700 MHz band until the broader proceeding on 3G spectrum is concluded," Verizon officials said. There are 138 stations operating on the band, which doesn't have to be cleared until 2006 at the earliest.

Several operators, including Paxson Communications, Sinclair Broadcasting, Entravision and Shop At Home own enough stations on the band to expect a big windfall from wireless companies in a hurry to get the frequencies. Although those broadcasters would like an auction as soon as possible, the FCC appears to be leaning in Verizon's favor.

Friday's request for comment was issued one day after Verizon made its request, an unusually quick turnaround. Furthermore, the Jan. 24 comment deadline gives interested parties only three business days to respond. - Bill McConnell

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