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  • Hubris13 Hubris13 Jun 18, 2002 5:48 PM Flag

    It ain't over

    Direct from today:

    With a Federal Communications Commission deadline nipping at their backsides, senators late Tuesday were trying to break a roadblock obstructing a bill that would delay Wednesday's scheduled auction of spectrum currently used for TV channels 52 through 59.

    Without passage in both houses of Congress, FCC officials said they would be obligated to hold the bidding. Capitol Hill and FCC sources said a lone senator had put a hold on the legislation. In keeping with Senate tradition, the lawmaker�s identity was not made public.

    House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who helped to broker a deal to delay the auction, was calling on the FCC to postpone the bidding solely if the legislation passes the Senate. "If we get it out of the Senate, that should send a clear signal to the FCC to whoa," Tauzin�s spokesman said.

    It�s unclear whether Powell will be willing, or even able, to postpone the auction absent a bill ready for the president�s signature. Complicating matters, commissioners Kevin Martin, Kathleen Abernathy and Michael Copps were out of town, and Powell may need their approval to reverse their joint decision to begin the auction Wednesday.

    Under the Capitol Hill plan, most bidding would be postponed indefinitely, while portions of the spectrum would be parceled out no later than September.

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    • Bush signs measure to delay FCC wireless sales

      WASHINGTON, June 19 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush signed legislation on Wednesday to delay indefinitely most of two government sales of wireless licenses, including one slated to begin on Thursday, yielding a victory for the mobile telephone industry.

      The measure, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on Tuesday, will allow the sale of a narrow slice of airwaves that are sought by rural mobile telephone carriers to go forward later this summer. The White House said Bush signed the measure on Wednesday.

      The mobile telephone industry wanted the auctions delayed because it was not clear when the television broadcasters would give up the airwaves as they move to digital signals.

      Carriers also argued that the delay would give the government time to draw up a plan to manage scarce spectrum resources.

      But broadcasters like Paxson Communications <PAX.A> had wanted the auctions to go forward, because they could have negotiated profitable deals to clear the airwaves early with the new owners.

      The airwaves at issue, in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band, are used by television broadcasters operating channels 52-69, but those stations do not have to give up their airwaves until 2007 at the earliest. The stations are supposed to turn over the airwaves as they move to digital signals.

      The Federal Communications Commission had planned to begin selling the airwaves used by channels 52-59 on Thursday and the spectrum for channels 60-69 next January.

      The measure signed into law removes the statutory deadlines for those sales to take place but requires the FCC to report to Congress within a year on when the auctions will take place as well as outline progress in the transition to digital television.

      Additionally, the law gives the FCC the authority to decide when to holds its wireless auctions. Previous law had required the FCC to sell the airwaves for channels 52-59 by the end of September and airwaves for channels 60-69 were supposed to be sold almost two years ago.

      The new law requires the FCC to sell 18 megahertz of spectrum that benefits rural mobile telephone carriers between Aug. 19 and Sept. 19 with the proceeds to be deposited by the year of the year.

      Among those who have qualified for the sale to take place later this year are numerous small rural carriers as well as ventures backed by money manager Mario Gabelli and media mogul Paul Allen who owns cable company Charter Communications Inc. <CHTR.O>
      06/19/02 09:48 ET

    • Lawmakers Postpone Wireless-Spectrum Auctions
      Dow Jones Business News, Wednesday, June 19, 2002 at 01:32

      WASHINGTON -- In a win for the wireless industry, lawmakers crafted and approved a last-minute deal to delay indefinitely a pair of spectrum auctions, including one set for Wednesday, as questions lingered on when those airwaves would actually become available for use.

      Tuesday's House and Senate votes represent a victory for wireless carriers and a setback for station owners such as Paxson Communications Corp. (PAX), which urged that both auctions proceed as scheduled. The company operates 19 of the nearly 100 television stations broadcasting on channels 60 to 69 and hopes to convince wireless carriers to pay it significant sums to relinquish its spectrum sooner than it needs to.

      The deal, reached after days of intense negotiations, postpones Wednesday's auction and a related sale set for January until federal regulators decide to go ahead with them.

      The measure had broad support in the House, but in the Senate it brought objections from Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska, who wanted Wednesday's auction to proceed, as it involved airwaves particularly useful to rural carriers such as Alaska Native Wireless. As part of the compromise legislation, lawmakers ordered the Federal Communications Commission to sell that narrow sliver of airwaves within three months. The measure now goes to President Bush to be signed into law.

      At issue is a broad swath of spectrum used for television channels 52 to 59 and 60 to 69, which broadcasters are supposed to relinquish as part of the transition to digital TV. The airwaves will then be used by the nation's wireless-phone companies, which are eager to bolster their networks and roll out advanced services such as high-speed wireless Internet access.

      But broadcasters aren't required to give up the airwaves until 2007 or whenever the market penetration for digital TV hits 85%, whichever comes later. Many wireless carriers worry that that could take more than a decade. Some station owners have demanded hundreds of millions of dollars to clear the airwaves earlier, but the cellular carriers contend the government should force the broadcasters off those airwaves. The carriers say they shouldn't have to pay the broadcasters, which have received the spectrum free of charge, to do something the broadcasters already are legally required to do.

      With that cloud of uncertainty hanging over the auction, the carriers waged an intense lobbying campaign to persuade lawmakers and regulators to indefinitely postpone both auctions until the government decides what other spectrum will be allocated for wireless communications and when it will become available.

      Last month, the FCC voted to delay the upper half of the auction until January, the sixth time the sale was postponed. The agency said the rest of the auction would go forward as scheduled. Now, both auctions will be delayed indefinitely.

      Wireless officials praised the move, which they said will allow lawmakers to devise a better plan for clearing the airwaves and making them available for use.

      Paxson spokeswoman Nancy Udell said the decision "was not unexpected," adding that the company hoped that federal regulators would urge Congress not to force the company to relinquish its airwaves sooner than planned.

      FCC officials weren't available for comment.

    • help? are you joking?

      if powell believed in the auctions he would have proceeded unless a law prohibited such.that law,as of this message, does not exist, yet powell took it upon himself to delay both auctions.
      nobody apparently cares about all the money and time spent by fcc people and the 150 plus bidders preparing for these auctions . the words "AMATEUR HOUR" really come to mind.

    • Powell tried to help. Congress should resign!

    • thanks. It's not even out of the senate. This auction is going forward!!!!!!