Commissioner McDowell's Spoken Testimony before House Subcommittee
COMMISSIONER ROBERT M. MCDOWELL
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE
COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Keeping the New Broadband Spectrum Law on Track
DECEMBER 12, 2012Thank you Chairman Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo and Members of the
Subcommittee for inviting us to appear before you today.
I share your goals of putting more spectrum into the hands of American consumers while
raising funds for the Treasury and a nationwide broadband public safety network.
It is important for all of us to remember that the FCC is at the earliest stages of
developing rules to implement Congress’s will regarding incentive auctions – auctions that will
literally be the most complex in world history. Initial comments are not even due until next
month. We will have to cull through a plethora of ideas and new questions we did not
contemplate when we launched the rulemaking last September. Consequently, it would be
premature for me to offer a final opinion on where the Commission should go with new auction
rules until it is time for us to vote on them.
Nonetheless, being the only commissioner before you today who is also a veteran of the
two of the largest spectrum auctions in American history, as well as the digital television
transition, I have learned a lot through trial and error. In our conversation today, I hope I can
help illuminate a path forward based on past successes and failures.
My entire testimony could be boiled down to one sentence: the FCC should approach
these auctions with simplicity, humility and regulatory restraint.
Through intelligently designed band plans and auction and service rules we can provide
opportunities for all stakeholders - and potential new entrants - to successfully participate in the
Similarly, we should avoid micromanaging the wireless market through unnecessary
rules that would deter bidders and reduce auction revenue. The goal of maximizing revenue is
especially important here due to the Congressional mandate that part of the auction proceeds
fund the construction of the new nationwide public safety network.
Furthermore, we should keep in mind that technology advances constantly, and what may
seem impossible to achieve today may be routine tomorrow. Let’s not underestimate market
innovation; or worse: let’s not inadvertently preempt it.
Beyond the spectrum auctions, American policymakers should continue their vigilance
against encroachments upon Internet freedom, especially internationally. Chairman
Genachowski and I worked together with the rest of the U.S. delegation in Dubai last week to
prevent the International Telecommunication Union from expanding its reach into the Internet’s
complex ecosystem. That treaty negotiation is still underway, but I am happy to answer any
questions you may have about it. And I would like to thank this Committee for its unanimous
and bipartisan resolution opposing even the smallest of international encroachments on Internet
In the meantime, I hope we could all share a New Year’s resolution to close the Title II
docket. My hopes may not be realized, but ending this proceeding would send a strong signal
around the globe that the U.S. opposes subjecting the Internet to late 19th Century industrial
Instead of new regulation in this space, we should revive a concept I proposed nearly five
years ago – and that is to use the tried and true multi-stakeholder model to resolve alleged anti-
competitive conduct that would threaten the open Internet. Supported by the backstop of
existing antitrust and consumer protection laws, the multi-stakeholder model could spotlight
market failures and cure them more quickly – and more effectively – than antiquated telephone
laws. If this concept is good enough for us to preach abroad, shouldn’t we practice it at home?
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.
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