Spectrum auctions, slated to be held in 2014, are the primary funding driver for the new nationwide public safety broadband network. However, at a December House Communications and Technology subcommittee hearing, Republicans expressed concern that if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reserves too much unlicensed spectrum (which can be used for free, by anyone) and withholds that from auction, not enough money will be raised to fund the network.
- Communications and Technology Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden estimated that the FCC’s plan to reserve this unlicensed spectrum could “cause the Federal government to forgo an estimated $7 billion in revenue.”
- Democrats on the subcommittee disagree, saying their role is to support industry and consumers. “Last time I checked, this is the Energy and Commerce Committee, not the Budget Committee,” Democrat Ann Eshoo said.
- The FCC is currently accepting comments on its proposed rules to implement the auction.
Food for Thought:
- Unlicensed spectrum is understood to breed technological innovation, as we’ve seen with WiFi. How does the FCC balance its mission to foster innovation with generating the revenue to implement the network?
- What are the implications to the national public safety broadband network if the expected revenue is not realized through these auctions? What’s Plan B?