One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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We have looming before us a wireless spectrum crunch. Spectrum being the finite airwaves we use for all things wireless – from cell phones to car key fobs.
More people are using more wireless data all the time. Video is an especially hay-yuge bandwidth devourer – and we’re watching ever more wireless video. So things spectrum are getting uber-tight.
In an alleged attempt to address this problem, the Feds created the bass-ackwards Spectrum Incentive Auction Legislation. The purported objective of which is to get swaths of over-the-air broadcasters’ spectrum to cell phone companies.
But the Feds absurdly mandated that they be the middlemen. Broadcasters can’t auction spectrum directly to the cellular companies – they must instead sell to the Feds, who then auction it off to the cell cos.
A straight line between sellers and buyers would make too much free market sense – and prevent the Feds from messing with the process.
Getting Broadcasters to voluntarily give up their businesses’ lifeblood is tenable at best – under optimum conditions. If the Feds decide to mess with the process – by, say, limiting auction bidders – the process will rapidly implode.
We the People need maximum bidder participation – because we need the cellular networks to keep up with our ever-increasing use. Broadcasters need maximum bidder participation – because they understandably want to get maximum spectrum coin.
(National Association of Broadcasters’ Executive Vice President for Strategic Planning Rick) Kaplan explained that TV broadcasters are worried that the (Federal Communications Commission) FCC will change or modify its auction rules during the 600 MHz auction or after it is completed.
He said such changes could imperil the revenues broadcasters are hoping to gain from the spectrum the FCC is asking them to give up in the auction….
(M)any worry that broadcasters might not give up their spectrum based on…uncertainty over how much money they will ultimately receive….
It ain’t just the Broadcasters – and we consistently free market-types – who are worried.
Almost 80 (Democrat) lawmakers signed onto a letter sent to (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler on Friday…directing regulators to do what they can to boost broadcaster participation and incentivize wireless industry bidding.
“In fact, inviting as many bidders as possible to compete in an open and fair auction on equal terms will allow for the full market price for spectrum to be realized and, in turn, lead to higher compensation to incent greater broadcaster participation resulting in more spectrum for the auction,” the letter reads.
The only people that want auction-and-market-damaging government-imposed bid limits? The Media Marxist Left.
While no qualified entity should be barred from participating in the upcoming auction, clear, transparent, and fair limitations on how much low-frequency spectrum any one carrier can acquire do not bar participation.
So is the FCC listening to the full cadre of:
1. Broadcasters they manifestly need to participate,
2. We free marketeers and
3. Even oodles of Democrats?
The (FCC) is expected to impose limits on an upcoming airwave auction….
The Media Marxists promised us that limiting bids wouldn’t limit bidders. As usual, they are oh-so-wrong.
AT&T…warned that if the FCC adopts rules that restrict how many licenses AT&T can bid on, it will not participate at all.
Bad for the auction – means bad for the spectrum crunch.
Not only would it likely negatively affect how much revenue the FCC could raise from the auction, but it would also mean…less interoperability among LTE devices for wireless consumers.
Which means bad for the economy. Which is why the Media Marxist Left wants it.
Why is the federal government about to give it to them?
[Originally published at Human Events]