In the western region of our country where the Coalition for a Connected West (CCW) works, the tech sector is playing an increasingly vital role in state economies. Access to high-speed Internet has inspired individuals from all walks of life to create opportunity for families and businesses.
Innovators are increasingly harnessing the power of mobile broadband connectivity to get things done. Life moves fast, we’re all charged up, we’ll do what we can on-the-go. It’s important as well to pay attention to the behind-the-scenes technology that makes all of this possible. Spectrum, for example, is comprised of invisible airwaves that connect us to people and the information we need.
That’s where the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) spectrum auction comes in. The incentive auction came about as a logical solution that invites television broadcasters to sell spectrum they don’t use to wireless carriers who need it to meet demand. As host to this little transaction, the government gets to use some of the auction proceeds to fund a nationwide public safety broadband network known as FirstNet, an as-yet-unfunded program recommended by the 9/11 Commission nearly 10 years ago.
The upcoming spectrum auction will play a vital role in assuring ubiquitous mobile connections. Putting the right auction rules in place is the key to a successful auction. The FCC should be commended for fighting off last-minute proposals to change auction rules and implement unnecessary limitations, which would have threatened the auction’s success.
Under the guise of “benefitting rural America,” some were pushing the FCC to limit auction offerings for the largest carriers, while favoring others. But the proposed rules didn’t actually require any rural or underserved build-out at all. Instead, this misguided approach would have allowed some carriers to obtain spectrum on-the-cheap where they could deploy it wherever they want – including higher-density, more lucrative areas. What a deal!
But the FCC wasn’t buying it. Instead, the spectrum auction is structured just the way you expect –the “highest bidder wins,” just like a cattle or antique auction would be. This process maximizes both broadcaster participation and auction revenues to the benefit of everyone involved.
While the implications of decisions like these can be hard to see from so far away, we on the ground know that the real winners are the consumers who are dependent on a growing menu of wireless products and services. This auction will now be an opportunity to get more spectrum to carriers who will use it to improve and expand services for their customers. Moving forward, it’s imperative that regulators implement a process that is simple, fair, competitive…all of which will maximize auction proceeds.
If it’s done right, the auctions outcome will meet all of these critical goals and offer important benefits to consumers and to our entire country.
By Michael Price, Executive Director of the Coalition for a Connected West., Aurora, CO