Early this week, parties offered mixed views on the FCC’s proposal to adopt an “overcoming disadvantages preference” (ODP) as part of the agency’s designated entity (DE) rules. Minority advocates called on the FCC to adopt the preference, while carriers recommended improvements to the current DE rules to accomplish the FCC’s goal of enhanced participation in spectrum auctions. Acting on recommendations issued by the agency’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age, the FCC issued a request for comments in December on the ODP, which would give auction bidding preferences to individuals who have “faced substantial disadvantages and overcome those disadvantages.” (The FCC’s modified DE rules that are under Supreme Court review provide bidding credits to small businesses.) Noting that such disadvantages may be caused by substantial economic hardship, natural or human disaster, or discrimination, the advisory committee said the FCC could determine ODP eligibility upon various factors that include, but are not limited, to: (1) physical or psychological disabilities or disorders, (2) unequal access to credit or to institutions of higher learning, (3) unequal treatment in hiring, pay, promotion, or other facets of professional advancement, and (4) social patterns or pressures that have discouraged individuals from pursuing educational or business opportunities. Voicing support for the proposal, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council said adoption of the ODP would “meet the Commission’s long-standing goals of promoting diversity and competition.” While agreeing that the ODP “has the potential to be a race and gender-neutral remedy for the difficulties faced by . . . groups in the highly competitive auction process,” a coalition of minority and consumer advocate groups that includes the National Organization for Women, Free Press, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, advised the FCC to “collect and analyze data on current spectrum auction participants and beneficiaries” of existing DE credits, noting: “this information is vital to any future rulemaking proceeding to assess whether existing and proposed preferences further the goals of the Commission.” While encouraging the FCC “to explore the possibility of an auction preference program for individuals who have faced substantial disadvantage,” Council Tree Investors—a petitioner in the pending Supreme Court case—argued that the agency “must restore its existing DE program to effectiveness . . . by renewing the practice of applying eligibility restrictions to certain blocks of licenses so that they are available only to those qualifying as smaller businesses.” Asserting that the ODP plan “is not an appropriate means” of fulfilling the FCC’s goal of wider participation in spectrum auctions, Verizon Wireless said the agency should instead consider “whether it can take other, more definitive, and less subjective actions to promote increased opportunities.”