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Lawmakers Caution FCC To Slow Down On Safety Auction Rules

With the Federal Communications Commission poised to vote tomorrow on a new plan to auction off spectrum for public safety first responders, some key lawmakers are urging the agency to slow down.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin earlier this week, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich) and Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), criticized the agency for advancing a proposal for new auction rules of the spectrum with just 14 days for the public to comment on the issue.

"We believe the comment cycle should more closely reflect the complex legal, administrative, and technical nature of this proceeding," they wrote in the letter, which was also signed by Rep. Jane Harmon (D-Calif). The lawmakers said the agency should allow at least 45 days for public comment on the plan.

The agency failed to auction off the block of spectrum earlier this year, attracting just one bidder at a price well below the minimum reserve price set. Many lawmakers and public interest groups criticized the auction for failing to attract bidders and create more competition in the increasingly consolidated wireless industry.

FCC Spokesman Robert Kenney said "we cannot get this done by the end of the year without an expedited timeframe."

The new plan, crafted by Martin, includes breaking up the spectrum into dozens of regional blocks so that individual carriers can purchase parts of the radio waves, which would be shared with police, fire and other emergency first responders in the event of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. The proposed auction rules, however, would give preference to a bidder who buys all licenses as a whole.

"We are concerned about reports that the item, as drafted, indicates a strong preference for a national license, even where regional bidders may have offered significantly more money for the right to use the spectrum," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 24, 2008; 1:34 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
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I hope they get it right this time!


Posted by: Alanna Myers | September 25, 2008 2:18 PM

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