FCC plans to begin auctions of federal spectrum by June 2006

FCC plans to begin auctions of federal spectrum by June 2006

The Federal Communications Commission has set the clock in motion for the auction of radio spectrum now occupied by federal agencies.

FCC last month notified the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees federal use of radio spectrum, that it plans to begin auctioning commercial licenses as early as June 2006. Under legislation signed into law earlier last month, revenue from the auctions will be used to reimburse agencies for the cost of moving federal communications into new bands.

NTIA must provide the FCC with estimates of those costs by December.

NTIA is setting up a working group with staff from the Office of Management and Budget to help agencies with cost estimates and timelines. Michael D. Gallagher, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Commerce Department, told agencies in a June 6 letter that the first meetings of the working group would be scheduled in the next several weeks.

Federal communications are being moved out of the 216-220 MHz, 1432-1435 MHz, 1710-1755 MHz and 2385-2390 MHz bands to make room for new commercial applications such as Advanced Wireless Services. Licenses to use the bands will be auctioned off to commercial users. The Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act, passed in the final days of the last Congress, established a Spectrum Reallocation Fund, which will be funded by proceeds from the auction.

Under the law, FCC is required to give NTIA 18 months notice of auctions. FCC gave notice Dec. 29. The commission notified NTIA that licenses for the 1710 MHz and 2385 MHz bands are expected to begin by June 2006, and for the 1432 MHz band in August that year.

The auctions must produce at least 110 percent of the estimated relocation costs.

Agencies must submit cost estimates to NTIA by Sept. 15. NTIA must submit those estimates to FCC in December, and Congress must then approve them.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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