Bush may postpone FCC 700MHz auction
(Reuters) The Bush administration, in the fine print of its budget unveiled on Feb. 28, 2001, raised new questions about whether the September auction of valuable airwaves broadcasters occupy will be postponed again, possibly until late 2003.
The airwaves, to be sold by the FCC, are being sought by wireless operators to offer consumers advanced mobile telecommunications services, but it isn’t clear when the broadcasters would vacate the spectrum.
In President George W. Bush’s budget, he proposed a shift of spectrum auction revenue into the federal coffers from the fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, 2001 to the year starting Oct. 1, 2003.
The $3.6 billion in revenue that was to be gathered from all FCC auctions through Sept. 30, 2003, was increased to $11.1 billion and shifted to begin entering the government’s coffers Oct. 1, 2003 through Sept. 30, 2006, according to the budget.
A spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget was not immediately available for comment.
“It’s tea-leaves reading,” said Thomas Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. FCC officials deferred comment to the Bush administration.
The airwaves to be auctioned this September are those held by TV broadcasters occupying channels 60-69 but who do not have to give up their analog airwaves for digital signals until the end of 2006 or when the penetration rate for digital television reaches 85%, whichever comes later.
That has raised numerous questions about when the wireless firms (and public safety) would be able to obtain the spectrum in the 700MHz band, and concerns among some Congress about whether the airwaves will garner the maximum sale price.
The FCC has already delayed the auction several times.