The FCC’s auction of spectrum being vacated by analog
television netted the agency $19.6 billion that will be used to help with the
transition to over-the-air digital television. This amount represented more
money raised that all previous spectrum auctions combined. The winner of the
auction will not be named for some time, but most followers expect to see
Verizon Wireless or AT&T Wireless eventually announced as the winner. The
“commercial” block sold for the $19.6 billion will be the first nationwide
network that would be open to all devices and software. Lobbying from public
interest groups and firms such as Google led to this “open restriction” on the
While the commercial portion was successful, the “D Block,”
designed to be a network developed privately but employed by public services
such as emergency responders, did not receive a bid high enough to meet the
reserve price. This sends the FCC back to the drawing board to reconsider some
of the restrictions and costs involved in developing that block.
It will be interesting to see how the winner of this
spectrum will implement its services on this newer open network. It will be
surprising if there are not some early disputes about how “open” the spectrum
remains. The winner of the spectrum will want to limit encumbrances, and
open-access proponents will want to mandate that regulations are followed.
While hopefully minimal, it is wishful thinking to suspect that these
regulations will not lead to a few minor spats between the interests.