GOP lawmakers cheer ‘remarkable’ airwave auction

Key Republican lawmakers are claiming victory on an auction of the nation’s airwaves that has already brought in $35.5 billion.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) on Monday called the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) auction “a remarkable success” so far and “a boon for American taxpayers.”

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Already, the billions raised by selling off government spectrum licenses will help agencies shift over to other portions of the airwaves, build a national high-speed communications network for first responders and pay down the deficit by at least $20 billion, he noted.

The AWS-3 airwaves were formerly in the hands of the Defense Department and other agencies, but will now go to help wireless companies such as Verizon and AT&T build up their networks so that people can watch movies, play games and surf the Internet on their devices faster than before. Companies say that the public’s increasing demand for high-speed mobile devices is causing a “crunch” of the limited supply of airwaves.

The current auction is the biggest initiative to shift that spectrum into phone companies’ hands in years.

A much bigger test is scheduled for 2016, when the FCC will buy up spectrum currently used by broadcast TV companies, repackage it and sell it to wireless firms.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the head of the Commerce subcommittee on Communications, said that the outlook for that process should be brighter based on the current auction.

“With the first-of-their-kind incentive auctions up next, the FCC has an opportunity to continue America’s leadership in wireless,” Walden, a former radio station owner, said in a statement.

“Chairman [Tom] Wheeler and the entire commission should be applauded for their work on this auction,” he added. “Let’s build upon this success as we look toward the next auction in 2016.”