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FCC advances TV spectrum selloff plans

Mon, 09/10/2012 - 2:28pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The FCC's plan to sell off broadcast television airwaves to spectrum-starved wireless operators is set to advance at its next open meeting.

Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said Friday the agency would vote on a "detailed proposal" for implementing the auctions at the Sept. 28 meeting, "an important step toward pioneering the world’s first incentive auctions and freeing up significant spectrum for mobile broadband."

The government passed legislation allowing the FCC to move forward with the voluntary sale of broadcast spectrum last year. The proposal has been met with skepticism by the broadcast television industry, which expressed concerns that the auctions wouldn't be completely voluntary when the FCC first suggested the idea two years ago.

The auctions need significant participation from broadcasters to meet the intended goal of addressing the spectrum crunch, and some in the wireless industry fear not enough licenses will be relinquished for the auctions to be effective. The FCC is trying to encourage broadcasters to sign up for the auctions with its new "Broadcaster LEARN Program," which provides resources to broadcasters as they consider whether to sell off their spectrum.

The FCC's last major auction of television broadcast spectrum in 2008 sold off huge chunks of the 700 MHz band to the wireless industry, paving the way for LTE service from Verizon Wireless and AT&T, among others.

Incentive auctions aren't the only item on the agenda for the FCC's upcoming open meeting. The Commission will also vote on a proposal to review its policies on how much spectrum can be owned by a single company, a change that has the potential to shift how it evaluates mergers and acquisitions. A plan to look at its licensing requirements for satellite service is also up for a vote.

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