Policy

Rosenworcel: Broadcasters Must Have 'Full and Fair Opportunity' to Stay in Business

7/18/2012 2:34 PM Eastern

FCC commissioner Rosenworcel said Wednesday that upcoming incentive auctions would be a "big and innovative" undertaking.

She emphasized that the auctions were voluntary and that broadcasters should have a full and fair opportunity to remain in the business. But for those that volunteer to give up spectrum, she said, there will be must-carry rights for those who share channels, and compensation.

Rosenworcel and FCC commissioners Robert McDowell and Mignon Clyburn all fielded questions Wednesday at an FCC commissioner luncheon at the Minority Media & Telecom Council's Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference in Washington.

McDowell, who said he was seven for seven in attending MMTC conferences, said he hoped the FCC would launch incentive auction proceedings as soon as possible, but said all the questions about exactly when were controlled by the chairman.

He said he agreed with strong build-out conditions for spectrum reclaimed in incentive auctions. He also put in a plug for flexible use of spectrum, spotlighting Wi-Fi and its lightning rise from a technology that nobody knew about to one everybody had to have.

Jose Mas, president and CEO of infrastructure company MasTec, Inc., who was the keynote speaker at the luncheon, had preceded the FCC panel by saying that spectrum infrastructure was the next big national infrastructure project, and that the FCC had a significant role in putting spectrum in the hands of people who will use, and to promote diverse participation.

He called on the commission to expedite the incentive auctions and make sure diverse businesses are participants in each stage of the process.

Mas said the government should not put valuable resources in the hands of companies that hoard spectrum or refuse to build it out. He did not name any names.

Commissioner Clyburn said the FCC should consider new entrant bidding credits for the upcoming spectrum auctions to make it more attractive to small businesses.

Asked what issues were on the horizon for commission action, Clyburn cited Universal Service Fund reform as something she was passionate about. Rosenworcel said the spectrum auctions were really important because they would grow the economy, particularly by spurring 4G mobile service growth. The agency should double down on those kinds of economy-growing efforts. She also put in a plug for getting to work on a first responder interoperable broadband network, which she promoted in her former job with the Senate Commerce Committee. She also said that broadband adoption and deployment are also double-down issues.

McDowell seconded his colleagues on the need to conclude USF contribution reform and get spectrum auction proceedings "off the ground." McDowell added action on media ownership rules, including the diversity portions.

Rosenworcel said that it is the right thing to give diversity issues priority, but pointed out that in a post-Adarand world (The Supreme Court decision on affirmative action), the FCC needs solid data that can narrowly tailor solutions that survive judicial review. All the commissioners said they would try to get the FCC moving on proposed FCC diversity studies. McDowell said, yet again, that Congress should reinstate an improved tax certificate policy to give tax breaks for selling media properties to minorities. Rosenworcel agreed that the tax certificate needs to return.

Clyburn had an extra impetus to be at the conference Wednesday. Her father, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), is receiving MMTC's highest honor, the Everett C. Parker award.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski was otherwise occupied at a Hill hearing on small business access to broadband, while a spokesman for Commissioner Ajit Pai, the first Indian-American commissioner, said he would have been there had he not had a prior speaking engagement in Pittsburgh, where Pai outlined a raft of proposals for the commission.

September