Spectrum Hearing: Genachowski to Lay out Plans to Free up More Airwaves

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It’s a busy Wed for the FCC as all 5 commissioners are set to testify at the House Commerce subcommittee hearing examining the agency’s incentive auction proposal before they head back for their open Commission meeting (which would see the approvals of DISH‘s terrestrial use of its satellite spectrum and the NPRM to free up more spectrum). According to chmn Julius Genachowski‘s written testimony, the FCC plans to launch an effort to free up 100 Mhz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band (the WiMAX band) for broadband use. The agency is also on track to initiate a proceeding in early ’13 to free "significant amounts of additional spectrum" in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed use. The agency took steps this year to free up some 30 MHz of spectrum for broadband, and it’s moving forward with new auctions that will result in about 65 MHz of newly available spectrum by early ’15, according to the chmn’s testimony. "I expect the Commission to hold the first of those auctions—of H block —in 2013." The comments largely confirmed speculations that the FCC will approve its NPRM to auction and set rules for the H Block during its FCC meeting Wed. It’s also expected to OK DISH‘s terrestrial use of its satellite spectrum, which would allow DISH to proceed with its planned mobile broadband network. Back to the spectrum incentive auction, comments from stakeholders are due 1Q. "We anticipate going to order in 2013 and conducting the auction in 2014," Genachowski said. Part of the FCC’s proposal focuses on unlicensed spectrum use, something cable ops are increasingly considering. Cable has extended in-home connections by deploying 100K WiFi hotspots across the country, James Assey, NCTA evp said in a statement. The trade group called on policymakers to seek ‘win-win’ solutions that will "enable consumers to benefit from licensed and unlicensed spectrum," he said. CA House members Anna Eshoo (D) and Darrell Issa (R) on Tues also reminded the FCC that legislation authorizing it to conduct incentive auctions also includes "enhanced access" to unlicensed spectrum. Meanwhile, expect Republican commish Ajit Pai to voice his concerns on potential auction structure. Specifically, the limits the Commission might place on auction participation would be a problem. "The more people at the party, so to speak, the better the party will be," his testimony said. But if the FCC tells broadcasters "You may bid this high, but no higher," many may not show up for the reverse auction, he said. Additionally, the agency’s Sept NPRM appears to envision an auction that will yield no net revenues, meaning no money for FirstNet, the nationwide public safety network and no money for deficit reduction. Democratic commish Jessica Rosenworcel will emphasize next steps. It’s time to develop incentives to encourage unleashing more federal spectrum for commercial use, she said: "What if we were to financially reward federal authorities for efficiency use of their spectrum?"

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