(Washington, DC) Former Democratic FCC Chairman Reed Hundt minced no words today when he lambasted spectrum reform provisions contained in Republican-backed legislation passed by the House late last year. Those spectrum provisions are potentially slated for inclusion in a bill that would extend payroll tax cuts, which were approved until February following a dramatic legislative fix in late-December.
"It is a bad bill. It is. It is the single worst telecom bill I’ve ever seen," Hundt told a packed audience at New America Foundation event today. Echoing complaints by current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Hundt went through a list of seven reasons why the extensive spectrum provisions, aimed at freeing up broadcast spectrum through auctions, would damage telecom competition and regulatory policy.
Chief among his complaints: "It will tell the FCC that auctions should be used to monopolize spectrum," by which he means that under the Republican draft the FCC won't be able to bar the largest mobile carriers from buying up the freed-up spectrum. Hundt's big fear is that if the FCC can't bar giants AT&T and Verizon from buying the spectrum, they'll do precisely that to foreclose competition.
Two other complaints raised by Hundt, which are also sore points for the current FCC, are that the bill tells the FCC which auction methodology to use and bars the FCC from allocating unlicensed spectrum. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Communications, Technology and the Internet subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, kicked off the event with an appeal for more unlicensed spectrum (Senate spectrum legislation does not contain the same restrictions regarding unlicensed spectrum).
"It would be unbelievably shortsighted, remarkably self-defeating if we ignored the history of the Internet" by failing to make more unlicensed spectrum available to spur innovation, Kerry said. Jerry Moran (R-KS), a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, added his support for using the spectrum freed up by the bill for unlicensed purposes. "You can make an awfully good argument that to maximize the revenue is to leave some spectrum available for entrepreneurship," he said.