Friday, February 24, 2012

Voluntary Spectrum Auctions Signed Into Law

We have emphasized, time and again, the pressing need to make more spectrum available for flexible commercial use. Growing demands for wireless broadband services and the spectrum needed to realize the economic and other benefits of wireless make additional spectrum availability an urgent priority.

So it is welcome news that on Wednesday, February 22, the President signed legislation authorizing voluntary incentive spectrum auctions. Title VI, Subtitle D of H.R. 3630, authorizes the FCC to:

[E]ncourage a licensee to relinquish voluntarily some or all of its licensed spectrum usage rights in order to permit the assignment of new initial licenses subject to flexible-use service rules by sharing with such licensee a portion, based on the value of the relinquished rights as determined in the reverse auction…of the proceeds…from the use of a competitive bidding system.

More details are contained in the enrolled bill. FSF Board of Academic Advisors member and Professor Michelle Connelly provided an explanation of how this kind of incentive auction system would be put together in her FSF Perspectives paper "Proposed FCC Incentive Spectrum Auctions: The Importance of Re-Optimizing Spectrum Use."

Recent legislative debate over spectrum auctions centered around entry and use conditions. This debate was the subject of FSF President Randolph May's Perspectives essay "Spectrum Auctions and Communications Policy Reform" and prior blog posts. With the FCC now assuming responsibility for implementing the spectrum auctions, it remains of the utmost importance that market-based incentives, open entry and flexible use guide the agency's process.

Undoubtedly, we will have more to say as the voluntary incentive spectrum auctions proceed.