FCC Requests 2014 Budget of $359 Million

The FCC has requested a budget of $359 million for 2014, a year that will bring highly anticipated spectrum auctions. 

The Federal Communications Commission, weeks ahead of Chairman Julius Genachowski's planned departure, has submitted its 2014 budget, which requests $359.3 million to "carry out the FCC's functions and meet the expectations of Congress."

In the 132-page document, the FCC details eight "strategic goals" for the year. Each strategic goal has identified outcomes, and each of the 27 outcome-focused performance goals has associated performance targets.

It's quite a to-do list.

The eight strategic goals are to:

One, Connect America, by maximizing access to affordable fixed and mobile broadband.

Two, Maximize the Benefits of Spectrum, which includes developing and implementing "flexible, market-oriented spectrum allocation and assignment policies that promote innovation, investment, jobs and consumer benefits, including ensuring meaningful availability of unlicensed spectrum."

Three, Protect and Empower Consumers by ensuring they have the tools and information they need to make informed choices.

Four, Promote Innovation, Investment and America's Global Competitiveness, which includes creating a "virtuous circle" in which investment enables innovation that leads to new investment, and so on.

Five, Promote Competition in the communications and media services markets, which will help foster innovation, investment and new jobs, as well as create more meaningful and affordable choices for consumers.

Six, Public Safety and Homeland Security—under which falls the availability of reliable critical communications infrastructures.

Seven, Advance Key National Purposes through the use of broadband.

and Eight, Operational Excellence, which includes making decisions based on sound data and analyses and "maintaining a commitment to transparent and responsive processes that encourage public involvement and best serve the public interest."

The goal that the wireless industry arguably cares about most—the spectrum auctions slated for 2014—falls under Strategy Two.

The FCC's agenda includes conducting auctions of licenses for spectrum, coordinating "frequency assignments and rulemakings with Federal agencies such as NTIA [the National Telecommunications and Information Administration]" and taking enforcement against violations of spectrum-related rules, such as interference, and processing "95 percent of routine spectrum license applications within 90 days of receipt."

Spectrum is the lifeblood of the wireless industry, and with the carriers continually needing more of it, as consumer data usage grows, even carriers that are currently sated have said they continue to search for new spectrum opportunities.

At the earliest, the auctions are expected to begin next fall.

In a March 21 statement, Commissioner Ajit Pai commended Genachowski for alerting the NTIA and the Department of Commerce that the FCC "plans to commence the auction of licenses in the 1695-1710 MHz band and the 1755-1780 MHz band as early as September 2014."

Pai added that it is his belief that the FCC should "aim to clear and reallocate" the latter band, "rather than forcing federal users and commercial operators to undertake the complicated, untested task of spectrum sharing," as has been proposed.

As of year-end 2012, the FCC said in the 2014 budget proposal, it has held 81 auctions, resulting in deposits to the Treasury of more than $51.9 billion.

The 2014 budget also includes a request to decrease the spending of auctions funding from $98.7 million to $89.4 million, in order, it states, "to support the timely implementation of the Auctions Incentive program."