WASHINGTON — House Republicans warned the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday against giving away scarce airwaves that it could auction to telecommunications companies for use in mobile broadband.
The remarks, which came at a hearing by a House communications subcommittee, took direct aim at one of the top priorities of Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman: to expand the availability of unlicensed airwaves, or spectrum, in order to open up congested mobile broadband networks and for Wi-Fi hot spots.
In September, the FCC proposed freeing up as much as 12 megahertz of spectrum for those unlicensed uses. The unlicensed space on the electromagnetic spectrum would also be used as “guard bands," which border segments of airwaves that are used by cellphone companies, broadcasters and other communications entities, in order to limit interferences from other nearby users.
“Unlicensed spectrum has a powerful record of driving innovation, investment and economic growth — hundreds of billions of dollars of value creation for our economy and consumers," Genachowski told the committee Wednesday.
But Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, chairman of the subcommittee on communications and technology, said the law that gave the FCC the ability to conduct “incentive auctions" of newly available spectrum required “maximizing thee proceeds from the auction."
For maximum proceeds, guard bands should be no larger than necessary, Walden said, adding that the 6 megahertz size proposed by the FCC is unnecessarily fat. As proposed, the airwaves set aside for unlicensed use could forgo $7 billion to $19 billion in potential proceeds, Walden said.