FCC Delays Next-Generation Wireless Auction

FRAMINGHAM (05/05/2000) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, as expected, formally delayed next-generation mobile wireless spectrum auctions from June until September, following complaints from broadcasters and wireless carriers that the rushed process did not allow time to resolve potential conflicts about use of the frequencies.

The FCC in a tersely worded "Public Notice" said it postponed auctions of spectrum in bands currently occupied by television channels 60 to 69 "in order to provide additional time for bidder preparation and planning."

BellSouth Co. in Atlanta, US West Co. in Denver and Verizon Wireless in New York, all asked the FCC to delay the auction. In a letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard last month, US West asked for a delay in the auction, saying this "would allow the Commission time to conclude expedited rule-making processing that would facilitate clearing broadcasters" from the spectrum to be auctioned.

The National Association of Broadcasters, in a letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard in February, said that conducting the auctions could "contravene" Congressional directions to ensure television stations can continue to use those channels to provide analog television service until the switch to digital television is completed.

A spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Republican from Louisiana, chairman of the House Telecommunications Committee, said "Billy thinks it makes sense to delay the auction until we can develop a sound spectrum policy." Congress mandated the FCC conduct the auction for spectrum currently occupied by television channels 60-69 for wireless services in time to deposit proceeds in the Treasury by the end of this fiscal year, Sept 30.

The U.K. last week raised $35 billion from an auction of similar spectrum and analysts have projected proceeds from a U.S. auction could top$100 billion.

But, the Tauzin spokesman said "we just can't auction spectrum to balance the budget" without first addressing issues raised by television broadcasters using channels 60-69 and the carriers who want to bid on the spectrum.

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