June 17, 2015 - 4:30 pm
By Tom Wheeler | FCC Chairman

This Sunday marks the first day of summer, and what will be the critical season for finalizing key details for next year’s Incentive Auction.  This two-sided auction will use market forces to make available more low-band spectrum to meet the wireless broadband needs of consumers and businesses for the twenty-first century, and to promote a competitive wireless marketplace.  More spectrum will spur innovation, economic growth and lead to greater consumer choice.

Commission staff recently wrapped up a nationwide tour of information sessions with broadcasters and, in order to confirm with interested broadcasters that all parties are counted, released a list of auction-eligible stations. Last week, the full Commission approved revised rules to provide broadcasters with more flexibility to reach agreements to share their spectrum with other TV stations, which broadcasters have told us would give them more incentive to participate in the auction.

Now we turn to the crucial task of finalizing our auction rules.  In order to serve as the foundation for a successful auction that best serves the public, those rules must carefully balance the range of goals that Congress established for us. For the last 19 months all the interested parties have been jockeying for rules that benefit their position. I understand the jockeying – I once engaged in it myself – but it is now time to end the back-and-forth and make decisions. No single party will be happy with everything we’ve done, but the final product is a balanced solution to a challenging situation with more moving parts than a Swiss watch. One message we heard loud and clear, however, was that the final rules must be as simple as possible. We have thus eliminated earlier ideas that added to complexity.

Yesterday, Commission staff briefed the Commissioners’ staffs on proposed recommendations to establish final rules for the auction that balance our statutory obligations, heeds commenters’ calls for simplicity and transparency in the flow of the auction, and – most importantly – serves the public’s interest in an effective, efficient, and timely auction

The proposal aims to clear the highest possible amount of spectrum for broadband consistent with broadcasters’ voluntary decisions to relinquish some or all of their spectrum usage rights. At the same time the proposal limits the number of impaired new licenses that are created in those isolated instances where it is necessary to relocate a TV broadcaster on the same or adjacent frequencies as those being auctioned.  The proposal eliminates bidding procedures that many commenters believed were burdensome and could limit broadcaster participation. It also adopts a formula for opening bid prices that creates value for both broadcasters and American taxpayers.  The proposal responds to requests to make more information about bidding available to bidders before and during the auction. And it ensures that competitive wireless carriers and new entrants have a clear shot at adding sufficient low-band spectrum to their portfolios so that they can compete more effectively in both rural and urban areas.

The proposal reflects an incredible amount of modeling and the careful consideration and analysis of all parties’ comments and concerns in a robust public record. The proposed package of rules is designed to best serve the broad public interest – and that’s the true test of good public policy.   

Hard decisions in difficult situations mean that no stakeholder will get exactly what it wants. Taken as a whole, however, the proposal we will present to the Commissioners strikes a fair balance that serves the greater public interest. The American people will be the real winners.