Verizon Wireless, AT&T Back Senator With a Hand in Spectrum Auction

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-06-12 Print this article Print

"Something that big and important is not something than an acting chair would do," Harold Feld, senior vice president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, told eWEEK.

Feld said the FCC is ready to order privacy protections for smartphones, which is something Clyburn can take on.

"It's certainly controversial, but it's well-defined, and something where the record is complete," he said. "It's important, but it's not going to change the shape of the world."

Regarding the push-and-pull over whether to put limits in place, Feld said that past auctions offer a lesson.

"AT&T and Verizon are the most well-funded and they can win any license they want to win. But if there are no restrictions on what they can bid on, the others aren't going to bother to show up," he said. "It's expensive to come and play in these things. ... There's a big entry fee; they set up war rooms. If you think you're not going to get what you need, you're going to think twice about spending a few million to get in."

If the carriers don't show up, the FCC's potential winnings are reduced.

Another challenge is the structure of the auction. There's a forward auction, in which the broadcasters offer what they're willing to offer, and then a reverse auction will follow, where carriers can see where they stand and make certain requests.

"People say, 'How much do you think we're going to clear?'" said Feld. "You can give the broadcasters more money to give up more spectrum, but then you're giving the government less money. ... It's all a very, very complicated matter."

For that reason and others, nothing is going to be decided this summer.

"This is complicated, this is hard ... and there are so many pieces. No one is expecting the [FCC] staff to have a plan to circulate until the fall," said Feld. "There are broad things people agree on, but there is no consensus right now."


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