Waxman declares support for TV spectrum auction


Although short on specifics, House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) has fired off a letter to the Supercommittee recommending ways to meet its deficit-reducing mission, and leading the list is the auction of spectrum from the television band.

As expected, Waxman suggested that other spectrum areas currently under the control of the federal government be sold to wireless companies. He suggested that investment in mobile broadband would generate billions in GDP and add jobs to the economy, and further suggested that auctions could bring in a net gain of $15B that could be applied to deficit reduction.

Here are Waxman’s full remarks on spectrum policy:

“The Joint Select Committee should consider new spectrum auctions as a mechanism to create jobs and raise significant revenue for deficit reduction.  Either as part of your recommendations or through separate legislation, Congress should provide the Federal Communications Commission with authority to conduct voluntary incentive auctions to efficiently and responsibly repurpose broadcast and other spectrum for wireless broadband uses.  In addition to authorizing incentive auctions, such legislation should direct the Administration to identify any federal spectrum that can be utilized more efficiently and reallocated for auction or shared use.

“A portion of the proceeds from auctions associated with these policies should be used to fund the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network.

“If structured appropriately, these policies and auctions will deliver considerable economic and public safety benefits for our country.  These benefits have been well documented by economists, industry stakeholders, state and local governments, and public interest organizations.  Funding the deployment of a nationwide wireless broadband communications network for public safety agencies would lead to the creation of an estimated 100,000 new jobs in the information and communications technology industry and, over time, produce other economic benefits of $4 billion to $8 billion per year.   Even greater benefits can result from auctioning new spectrum.  Expert economists believe that the build-out of 300 MHz of new spectrum made available for commercial mobile broadband uses will create more than 300,000 new jobs and an additional $230 billion in GDP over five years.   Because the proceeds of the spectrum auctions would significantly exceed the amount needed to build out the public safety network, the net savings should be in the range of $15 billion.

“First responders, governors, state and local officials, and every major public safety organization in America urge that the critical “D block” of spectrum be reallocated for public safety use.  This additional spectrum will ensure that public safety has sufficient bandwidth to meet current and future wireless broadband needs.   The Joint Select Committee should include this reallocation in any spectrum proposal.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Waxman offered a small amount of policy wiggle room by suggesting that the government “responsibly repurpose broadcast and other spectrum.” Still, we’d suggest instead that the government demand that wireless companies put the spectrum they are irresponsibly squatting on to work before letting them get their hands on any new spectrum.

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