The FCC took its first steps to implement spectrum-related provisions of the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (Jobs Act) with the circulation of a draft rulemaking notice (NPRM) last Friday that would seek comment on proposed rules to govern incentive auctions of television spectrum to be surrendered voluntarily by broadcasters for wireless broadband use. Signed into law last February, the Jobs Act mandates incentive auctions of broadcast television spectrum that were first proposed by the FCC two years ago as part of the agency’s National Broadband Plan. Both the incentive auction NPRM and a separate item that considers potential limits on the spectrum holdings of wireless carriers will be voted on by the FCC on September 28. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that the FCC’s goal is to finalize auction rules by next summer, with an incentive auction of broadcast spectrum and the resulting auction of channels reclaimed from participating broadcasters to be conducted simultaneously in 2014. Genachowski also stressed that, as part of the agency’s proceeding, “we must pursue several strategies vigorously: freeing up more spectrum for both licensed use and for unlicensed services like Wi-Fi; driving faster speeds, greater capacity and ubiquitous mobile Internet coverage, and taking additional steps to ensure that our invisible infrastructure for mobile innovation can meet the needs of the 21st century.” To accomplish these objectives, Genachowski said the draft NPRM will seek input on the design of a band plan that would include set-asides of unlicensed “white space” in each market to be used for Wi-Fi. In addition to considering rules to govern the broadcast incentive auction and auctions of surrendered spectrum to wireless operators, the NPRM would request comment on procedures to be used during the transitional period in which ffected TV broadcast operations would be relocated in the repacked channel space designated for broadcast use. A spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters said his organization “looks forward to working with the FCC and Congress to implement spectrum incentive auction legislation,” adding: “our main objective remains the preservation of a vibrant future for free and local TV stations.” Meanwhile, Steve Largent, the president of wireless association CTIA, voiced appreciation that the FCC “will take a thoughtful, thorough and efficient approach in this proceeding so the unused and underutilized spectrum is reallocated to its highest and best use.”
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FCC circulates draft rulemaking notice on incentive auctions
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