FCC Official Notes Critical Need For ‘Incentive Auction' Legislation

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By Paul Barbagallo  

Jim Schlichting, senior deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Bureau, reiterated the agency's stance Feb. 7 that without congressional action, the wireless industry may soon face a crippling airwaves shortage.

Schlichting, speaking on a panel at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' winter meetings, touted the FCC's proposal to hold “incentive” spectrum auctions, in which the agency would reclaim airwaves from television broadcasters and auction them off to mobile network operators, sharing some of the proceeds with the TV stations that volunteer to cease broadcasting and, ultimately, give back their spectrum to the government.

“The [FCC] has been very bullish and positive that this would be a big ‘win-win' situation in terms of taking spectrum from uses that are perhaps not efficient as they could be and make it available for the provision of mobile broadband services,” Schlichting said.

The research firm Yankee Group estimates that by 2015 consumer use of wireless applications and services will be nearly 60 times today's volume.

The FCC has set a goal of freeing 500 MHz for commercial mobile broadband networks by 2020, 120 of which through incentive auctions.

“We're very concerned that if more spectrum is not made available that some of those applications and services … won't be as widely available,” Schlichting said.

Though noting the importance of legislation authorizing incentive auctions, Schlichting did not criticize GOP House legislation as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has in recent weeks.