FCC puts 700 MHz item on July 31 agenda
FCC members are scheduled to consider much-anticipated rules for the 700 MHz auction at its meeting on Tuesday, according to an agenda released yesterday evening.
Announcement of the meeting was made several hours after FCC commissioners appeared before a House subcommittee in an oversight hearing on the agency’s deliberations. Not surprisingly, most questions during the hearing focused on the FCC’s deliberations on rules for the 700 MHz auction, dubbed by FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell as “the most important auction of the century” because of the favorable propagation characteristics of the frequencies and the potential solutions to longstanding issues being considered.
Typically, specifics of FCC draft orders are kept secret until the commission votes on a final measure, but features of Chairman Kevin Martin’s proposal have been the subject of multiple media reports for weeks. In his opening statement, Martin further detailed aspects of his proposal, including public-private partnership for a nationwide public-safety broadband network using 10 MHz of commercial spectrum and 12 MHz of public-safety spectrum. Any disputes between the public-safety licensee and the commercial licensee would be sent to the FCC for resolution, Martin said.
After an agreement is reached, the commercial licensee would have to meet strict buildout requirements or risk forfeiture of its license, which the public-safety licensee then would have the right to claim.
As for the rest of the 60 MHz of commercial spectrum to be auctioned, the Martin proposal calls for 22 MHz to be subject to open-access requirements designed to ensure that consumers can use any device that does not harm the network—a stipulation that some incumbent wireless have opposed. Martin said his proposal does not include any network-neutrality provisions or any requirements that would limit a bidder to providing wholesale service.
“If they have to sell access at a discounted price, they might not be willing to invest in the underlying network,” Martin said, expressing his concern about the wholesale business model.
Martin acknowledged that his proposed rules will not make everyone happy.
“Google is as upset about my not including the wholesale model as incumbents were about the open-access [provisions],” he said.
A majority of the commissioners indicated support for the open-access provisions and an increase in “blind bidding” rules that are designed to reduce the likelihood of collusion—a tactic that incumbents allegedly have used to prevent new nationwide competitors from entering the wireless market.