FCC head cheers ‘transformative’ spectrum plans

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Monday that his agency is in the midst of projects that could “completely revolutionize” the way people communicate with each other.

The commission’s upcoming auction of room on the nation’s airwaves, along with plans to share spectrum space, are “fundamentally transformative” policies that could lead to thousands of new jobs and new innovation, he said at the Brookings Institution.

“We at the FCC will make unprecedented use of market mechanisms and the flexibility of digital technology to derive greater value from our finite spectrum resource," he said. 

Wireless companies have been hungry for more room on the airwaves to keep up with the growing demand for users streaming videos and playing games on their phones and tablets. 

Next year, the commission is scheduled to hold an “incentive auction” to reassign spectrum licenses. Broadcasters that currently hold the licenses will be able to auction the rights to the FCC, which will in turn sell them off to wireless companies.

The FCC chairman made an attempt to encourage broadcasters that may be skeptical of the auction to take part. 

“Seldom have I seen such a risk-free opportunity as that represented to broadcasters by the incentive auction,” Wheeler said. “It’s a win-win-win situation. You don’t normally get those kinds of opportunities in new and innovative circumstances.”

“If we proceed responsibly, as I am confident we are, the rewards of vastly improved spectrum policy will make our collective endeavor entirely worthwhile for everyone involved,” he added.

As if to underpin the growing reliance on devices relying on the spectrum, Wheeler’s cell phone started ringing midway through his remarks.

“Just consider this one more example of why we need good spectrum,” he said to laughs from the audience, while waving his phone.