Genachowski and McDowell Out at the FCC but Priority on Spectrum Remains

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Smartcomm anticipates the President will Appoint Broadband-Focused Commissioners

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...because the Senate has placed priorities on the FCC regarding sourcing more spectrum it seems obvious they will appoint another well qualified Chairman who concurs with those priorities.

The Senate Commerce Committee, which directly oversees the FCC and from which the FCC receives its suggested priorities, held its first oversight hearing of the year last Tuesday. The meeting in its entirety can be viewed on their website at http://commerce.senate.gov. Once again, the scarcity of mobile broadband spectrum in the U.S. was a hot topic at the hearing as Committee members urged the FCC to continue to work towards freeing up more spectrum for future auctions. Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Senator John Thune (R-SD), urged the FCC to prioritize making more spectrum available for commercial use and later stated in a press release (cited here: http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=d78c8282-6477-4e11-a7c0-be0bb4cc81a6) that, “cleared spectrum is the best way to meet consumer demand and raise revenues needed to relocate current users and reduce the deficit.” Smartcomm applauds Senator Thune’s strong stance on this matter. Historically, it has taken at least six years for new spectrum to go from policymaking to the hands of a carrier. The FCC’s most recent blockbuster auction of 700 MHz spectrum, for example, was made possible by first moving broadcasters off of the spectrum via the Digital TV Transition. The DTV Transition was mandated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Yet, the actual process of relocating the broadcasters took so long that the spectrum couldn’t be auctioned until 2008 and wasn’t available for use by winning bidders until 2009. Thirteen years from policymaking to license grant. Senator Thune clearly understands that relocation takes time and capital and is justly pushing the FCC to find more spectrum today in order to secure the real estate needed for future growth and innovation several years from now.

The next question is who will be the team at the FCC to carry out this work? The FCC’s five commissioners are appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate Commerce Committee and then voted on by the entire U.S. Senate. Commissioners typically serve five-year terms but may be nominated and reappointed for consecutive terms. Only three Commissioners may be members of the same political party and the President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairman. On Wednesday, March 20th several media outlets including Fierce Wireless reported that seven year veteran Commissioner Robert McDowell announced he will depart the FCC (one year early) in the next few weeks. Many speculators wondered if McDowell’s sudden departure was setting the stage for Chairman Genachowski’s to announce his resignation as well. It was. Smartcomm does not expect a significant delay before McDowell and Genachowski’s seats are filled, however; the Senate should readily agree upon a Republican in one seat and a Democrat in the other.

As reported by The Hill on March 22, 2013, the next Chairman is likely to be the highly qualified Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former head of the National Cable Television Association and CTIA or the equally impressive Lawrence Strickling, head of the NTIA. Another rumored possibility is Karen Kornbluh, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "All are solid candidates for the job and should understand the needs of the mobile broadband industry well; particularly the importance of making more spectrum available to the private sector. And, because the Senate has placed priorities on the FCC regarding sourcing more spectrum it seems obvious they will appoint another well qualified Chairman who concurs with those priorities," says Carole Downs, Smartcomm CEO.

About Smartcomm, LLC
Phoenix-based Smartcomm, LLC provides consulting services and opportunities in the wireless communications industry to both individual and institutional clients. The company specializes in opportunities to acquire spectrum to be used for mobile broadband, through the filing of license applications, participation in FCC public auctions, or acquisitions in the secondary market.

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