Congress Gives FCC Control Over Auction Rules

Posted by at 4:07 pm on February 16, 2012

The US Senate and House of Representatives today reached a compromise a bill regulating the sale of unused spectrum once used for TV broadcasting. The bill has been reworded to give the FCC the authority to set the terms of the auction. As originally phrased, the FCC could have sold the majority of the unused bandwidth in between TV frequencies, or “white space,” to carriers such as Verizon or AT&T.

The bill, as originally put forward by the US House in December, would require the FCC to auction all the spectrum, once used by analog TV signals, off to licensed users. The agency wouldn’t have had the option of holding back any bandwidth for unlicensed services, including future Wi-Fi or Bluetooth variants. While the technology isn’t as useful in bigger cities, where frequencies can be crowded enough to create interference risks, it could help in less dense areas and rural towns where it’s often expensive to get fast Internet access to a wide area.

The compromise version of the bill could see white spaces curbed, but it would still prevent carriers from getting too much of the spectrum. Google, Microsoft, and other technology firms have been championing white space wireless as a way of spreading Internet access to more people and allowing new uses.

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