FCC launches task force on broadband spectrum auctions

In its first step toward implementing spectrum auctions authorized by Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a task force on Wednesday to study the issue.

Ruth Milkman, a special counsel to the agency's chairman, will head the task force on an interim basis.

As part of the payroll tax cut extension approved earlier this year, Congress authorized the FCC to auction airwaves that currently belong to television broadcasters, splitting some of the revenue with the stations that choose to participate.

The spectrum is potentially worth billions of dollars to wireless carriers, which are struggling to meet the growing data demands of smartphones and tablet computers.

The FCC first proposed the idea to incentivize spectrum auctions in its National Broadband Plan two years ago.

“But there’s no doubt that the task ahead will be complex and challenging," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement Wednesday. "Incentive auctions are unprecedented. The legislation, at over 100 pages, raises many difficult issues."

It will likely be years before the auctions are complete.

The task force will also include Rick Kaplan, chief of the FCC's Wireless Bureau; Bill Lake, chief of the Media Bureau; Julius Knapp, the head of the Office of Engineering and Technology; chief economist Marius Schwartz; chief technologist Henning Schulzrinne; and general counsel Austin Schlick.

“I’m confident our staff is up to the challenge," Genachowski said. "What we’ll see is an implementation process that will be inclusive and participatory; that will be guided by the economics and the engineering; and that will seek to maximize the opportunity to unleash investment and innovation, benefit consumers, drive economic growth, and enhance our global competitiveness. When the incentive auction of the TV bands is complete, we expect to have a healthy broadcast sector, and a strong, robust, competitive, and world-leading mobile industry."