Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External & Legislative Affairs, responds to comments made by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt regarding spectrum auctions:
“Despite Reed Hundt’s recollection, the FCC’s track record on auctions is not an unbroken string of successes. In fact, Hundt’s tenure saw perhaps the biggest single fiasco of this sort, the PCS C Block auction. In that situation, the FCC used its discretion in a way that set aside valuable spectrum for ‘designated entities’, and excluded otherwise qualified companies from bidding. Over half of the 493 licenses from that auction were later returned to the government for non-payment, and the licenses of the largest winner, NextWave, were tied up in bankruptcy litigation for years. In that case, the FCC’s use of its ‘discretion’ ended up costing the U.S. Treasury billions, and left vitally needed spectrum unused for years.
“No one is suggesting the FCC’s conduct of auctions be micro-managed. But Congress – not the FCC – sets policy, especially when it directly impacts revenue needed for deficit reduction. And there is no more fundamental policy point than whether a spectrum auction should be open or closed. Congress has every right to tell the FCC it should not be picking winners and losers in the wireless market, or using its ‘discretion’ to tilt the playing field. We need open auctions where every competitor has a fair chance to participate, and that is what the House bill provides.”