Walden Introduces Spectrum Auction Legislation

Published August 22, 2011

Draft legislation introduced this July by Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) would mandate the Federal Communications Commission auction a variety of electronic spectrum bands within 10 years. Walden’s legislation would scuttle current FCC plans for portions of the 700 MHz spectrum, but it could also bring more funding into federal coffers.

The legislation would require the auction of unused spectrum in between broadcast channels, known as white space—the slivers of 700 MHz spectrum freed by the transition of TV channels from analog to digital—which proponents say could be used for developing “Wi-Fi on steroids” that would could provide wireless broadband access to sparsely populated areas and for other uses.

In addition to the spectrum auctions, the proposed legislation would give the FCC authority to reallocate TV broadcast spectrum with the broadcaster’s agreement, and it would allocate 24 megahertz of spectrum for a nationwide, interoperable LTE public-safety network.

“New technology is making more spectrum available,” said Steve Titch, a telecom policy analyst at the Los Angeles, California-based Reason Foundation. “The question is, how long do you want to sit on it? Spectrum auctions can be worth billions of dollars and really help with the budget deficit,” he said.

“The public is demanding these auctions,” Titch added. “The auction of spectrum allows for the carriers to provide more enhanced services,” he said, including video and other bandwidth-intensive services. “This legislation is a step in the right direction. If anything, the proposed legislation should’ve called for the auction of spectrum much sooner.”

Ari Zoldan, CEO of New York-based Quantum Networks, agrees with Titch. “I’m definitely a big advocate of any free-market opportunity,” Zoldan said. “Auction of spectrum enables some of the smaller guys to play with some of the bigger guys. I’m all for it. I think it’s a great idea.”

Phil Britt ([email protected]) writes from South Holland, Illinois.