Chairman Martin and his FCC colleagues testified today before the House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee on the just-completed 700 MHz spectrum auction. At the top of the agenda was the failed D Block auction. According to Martin, all options are on the table. According to the WSJ, however, some have definite ideas for the block:
Some Republican members on the committee said they believed the 10 megahertz of spectrum should be sold off to the commercial wireless industry, and part of the proceeds then given to public safety so they could solve their communications shortcomings on their own. Those who advocate this solution have argued that public safety entities already control more than enough spectrum allocated to them by Congress over the years, but that it is being used ineffectively.
Those “some republicans” seem to include ranking member Joe Barton.
This is a bad idea. While I’m sympathetic to the argument that “public safety entities already control more than enough spectrum allocated to them by Congress over the years, but that it is being used ineffectively,” throwing more money at the problem isn’t going to fix it, either. Bringing commercial providers into the public safety sphere can help begin to break down the collective action problem that is the cause of the ineffective use of spectrum. If a commercial solution is successful, maybe then Congress can take a second look at all the spectrum public safety now holds and do something akin to the DTV transition: auction the spectrum while moving public safety to better, more efficient technologies.