Testifying Tuesday at an oversight hearing hosted by the House Communications & Technology Subcommittee, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler touted the results of the recently-concluded reverse phase of the incentive auction in which broadcasters set a clearing target of $86 billion to free up the maximum number of 600 MHz band channels for sale to the wireless industry during the upcoming forward phase of the auction.  Wheeler acknowledged that, however, given the high financial bar set by broadcasters and the fact that the auction represents “a market-based mechanism for matching supply with demand . . . it’s possible that we would need to move to additional stages to find the level where demand meets supply.” 

Wheeler appeared alongside his fellow FCC commissioners at Tuesday’s hearing, which also highlighted the FCC’s cable set-top box rulemaking proceeding and related industry proposal to replace set-top boxes altogether with an open, apps-based navigation standard.  All five FCC commissioners told lawmakers that the alternative industry proposal “shows promise.”  Although FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai, Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel voiced concern that the FCC’s “open the box” proposal could raise copyright concerns, Wheeler affirmed that any action taken by the FCC, whether prompted by the agency or by the cable industry, “must not undermine copyright.”  When asked by one subcommittee member whether the FCC would have to re-issue the set-top box rulemaking notice [NPRM] to accommodate the industry plan, Wheeler replied:  “I think the NPRM we put out was broad enough, because we asked about other approaches.”