Public Knowledge Joins 24 Groups Urging Congress To Extend FCC’s Auction Authority Using Balanced Approach

Groups argue that a balanced approach allows innovators to access the spectrum they need to serve the American public.

Today, Public Knowledge joined 24 public interest and civil society groups, schools, and libraries in a letter urging Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS), and other members of Congress to renew the Federal Communication Commission’s spectrum auction authority in a way that promotes a vibrant, diverse wireless ecosystem. The groups argue that taking a “balanced approach” will “allow innovators, local anchor institutions, and technology companies – not just incumbent wireless providers – to access the spectrum they need to serve the American public.”

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

“Congress has extended the FCC’s authority to auction spectrum until December 16 of this year. Congress should renew a further extension of the Commission’s authority that does not prioritize exclusive use licensed spectrum over unlicensed or shared spectrum models. Limiting the Commission’s auction authority in a manner that only allows the FCC to provide licensed spectrum access to mid-band spectrum for exclusive use is shortsighted. It would gift spectrum to a highly concentrated industry whose neglect of Tribal lands and rural communities is only now being remedied by the widespread deployment of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) shared spectrum. Indeed, failing to provide more mid-band spectrum for CBRS-like sharing and for next generation Wi-Fi would further entrench incumbents by eliminating spectrum access for the incumbent carriers’ most successful competitors. It would choke innovation in the fastest growing and most innovative segment of the wireless economy – private 5G networks.

“By contrast, the surest way to maintain American leadership in the global wireless economy while enhancing affordable wireless access for all Americans is to provide the FCC with the tools it needs and flexibility to use these tools effectively… In every case, whether with spectrum auctions, unlicensed spectrum, or the new hybrid shared-access models (which are licensed-by-rule), the United States has led the world because the FCC has led the world as an innovative wireless regulator.

“Congress should allow the FCC to continue its successful stewardship of the public airwaves. But Congress should also recognize that auctioning exclusive-use spectrum licenses is not the only tool that the FCC needs to meet the diverse wireless needs of our country and maintain American leadership in wireless. Congress should likewise recognize that CBRS and unlicensed spectrum have helped fill in gaps left by the auction-driven wireless incumbents by allowing rural America and Native Tribes to build their own networks. Congress must prevent the wireless industry from using the reauthorization of the FCC’s auction authority as a vehicle to choke off competition, crush innovation, and continue to neglect rural America. We urge [Congress] to re-authorize the FCC’s auction authority, while allowing the FCC to use all its tools to provide for our spectrum future.”

You may view the letter for more information.

Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at or 405-249-9435.