FCC’s Clyburn: Spectrum auction isn’t ‘a train wreck’

The FCC’s upcoming spectrum auction in 2015 is “absolutely not a train wreck,” according to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

Speaking at a Politico event Thursday, Clyburn said the FCC is in the “spectrum-enabling business” and will be vigilant as the auction approaches. The auction is aimed at buying 600 MhZ spectrum from broadcasters, then selling it to wireless companies who are looking to increase their network’s reach.

“It’s an opportunity to improve, to make efficient, both the broadcast space and the wireless space,” she said. “How many times can you have an engagement that is voluntary, that has the opportunity to repurpose spectrum for its greater use?”

The FCC made news last month after announcing it would limit the amount of spectrum telecom giants AT&T and Verizon would be able to purchase.


Clyburn said the FCC is doing all that it can to help the country adapt to its soaring wireless device use.

“We are teeing up options,” Clyburn said. “We are doing all of these things because we know that we’re increasingly becoming platform agnostic. We know that ‘platform agnostic’ requires spectrum in order to navigate and operate. It is important for us to literally use all of the tools that we have, all of the ammunition in our arsenal to enable.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote a blog post Wednesday describing how in order to facilitate the sale, the commission plans to educate and inform broadcasters about the auction.

“The auction is a risk-free, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for broadcasters, but the decision of whether or not to participate is completely voluntary and confidential,” Wheeler wrote.  “We recognize that spectrum auctions are new for most broadcasters and that we owe them additional information before the incentive auction.”

The FCC plans to travel the country over the coming year in order to educate broadcasters on why they should participate, how much money they stand to make and how long the process of selling spectrum is expected to take. Clyburn said Thursday that as of now, broadcasters have been reticent to join the auction.


Speaking at the same event, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said it’s crucial to open up the spectrum for innovation.

“We don’t know how spectrum is going to be used in the future,” Lofgren said. “There’s some very smart guys working on this in [Silicon Valley], and if they have a chance to proceed, you may see some very different opportunities.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also said it’s important that this spectrum become available.

“We’re gonna have to open up that spectrum,” Chaffetz said. “There’s gonna be some other innovative things that people are going to do.”

Latest Podcasts