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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
COMMISSION INITIATES PROCEEDING ON CHANGED AUCTION AUTHORITY UNDER THE BALANCED BUDGET ACT OF 1997
Today, the Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making ("Notice") that
begins a proceeding to implement Sections 309(j) and 337 of the Communications Act of 1934, as
amended by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 ("Balanced Budget Act"). The purpose of this
Notice is to evaluate the impact of the revised law on the Commission's auction authority for
wireless telecommunications services. |
In the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, Congress authorized the Commission to award licenses for use of the electromagnetic spectrum through competitive bidding where mutually exclusive applications were accepted for filing and the principal use of the spectrum involved subscriber-based services. The Commission was also required to find that the use of competitive bidding would promote the public interest objectives described in Section 309(j)(3) of the Communications Act. In the Balanced Budget Act, Congress revised the Commission's auction authority, requiring the Commission, subject to an obligation in the public interest to avoid mutual exclusivity (Section 309(j)(6)(E)), to use competitive bidding to resolve mutually exclusive applications for initial licenses or permits, unless one of three exemptions provided in the statute applies. The statute exempts from the competitive bidding process licenses and construction permits for: (1) "public safety radio services," (2) licenses or permits for digital television service given to existing terrestrial broadcast licensees to replace their analog television service licenses; and (3) noncommercial educational broadcast stations and public broadcast stations.
The Notice seeks comment on the scope of the Balanced Budget Act's exemption from competitive bidding for licenses and permits issued for public safety radio services. The Notice also seeks comment on a Petition for Rule Making that proposes the establishment of a new radio service pool for use by electric, gas, and water utilities, petroleum and natural gas pipeline companies, and railroads. Additionally, the Notice seeks comment on implementation of Section 337(c), which allows providers of public safety services that meet certain statutory criteria to apply for unassigned frequencies not otherwise allocated for public safety purposes without engaging in competitive bidding.
The Balanced Budget Act retained Section 309(j)(6)(E), which imposes on the Commission an obligation in the public interest to use engineering solutions, negotiation, threshold qualifications, service regulations, and other means to avoid mutual exclusivity in application and licensing proceedings. The Notice seeks comment on how the Commission should balance the statutory mandate to assign licenses through competitive bidding with its obligations under Section 309(j)(6)(E).
Action by the Commission, March 19, 1999, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 99-52). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell and Tristani.
News Media Contact: Meribeth McCarrick at (202) 418-0654