FCC Chair Tom Wheeler Accuses Broadcasters of Slowing Spectrum Auction Plans

Tom Wheeler FCC - H 2013
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Tom Wheeler FCC - H 2013

FCC chair Tom Wheeler said he’s optimistic that spectrum auctions would begin in early 2016 as planned, though he was “disappointed that the broadcasters have slowed things down by filing suit.”

“I believe we will have an auction in 2016,” Wheeler asserted on Wednesday at CES, adding that he’s “hoping this will be argued in March and decided in May or June. … We are advocating that the broadcasters’ request for a delay is without merit.”

“What broadcasters are sitting on is immensely valuable, and they have an opportunity to participate in the auction without losing the business that they are already in,” he continued. “The future of the spectrum is spectrum sharing. … And that’s a technology issue. How can we have successful sharing?”

But speaking to The Hollywood Reporter after the session, Dennis Wharton, executive vp communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, argued that the broadcasters are not slowing thing down. “Our lawsuit is narrowly targeted, and we are seeking an expedited review to make it happen quickly,” he said. “If we wanted to delay the auction, we wouldn’t have put it on the fast track.”

“We are asking for two parts of the FCC proposal to be explored by the courts in terms of their legality: Their ability to shrink the broadcasters’ coverage beyond what we think Congress intended and how much money a broadcaster might have to pay out of pocket when a broadcaster is forced to move to another channel after the auction,” Wharton said.