Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., took the Federal Communications Commission to task on Tuesday for what he saw as a failure to fully answer his questions about spectrum policy.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Dingell said he is "disturbed" that the FCC has not answered his spectrum questions "in a substantive manner."
Dingell originally wrote to Genachowski in June with a list of detailed questions about the potential impact of the agency's spectrum proposals.
In a response dated August 3, Genachowski responded to some aspects of the letter, but in Dingell's view, he was evasive on some key points.
Genachowski appeared, in Dingell's view, to skirt one question in particular about the potential structure of incentive auctions, a proposal that would offer compensation to TV broadcasters to sell off their airwaves to mobile companies. The FCC wants Congress to approve such auctions. Dingell and other members of Congress are concerned that broadcasters could be harmed by the proposal.
Genachowski said in his letter that he could not provide certain information about the proposal, and how auctions would be structured, because he is "deeply concerned that disclosure of predecisional information would potentially damage the Commission's deliberative processes" on incentive auctions.
That didn't satisfy Dingell.
"With respect to voluntary incentive auctions, it is imperative that Members of Congress know what effect they will have on the broadcast industry and their constituents' ability to receive free, over-the-air local programming," the congressman wrote.
Dingell suggested it might be necessary for members of Congress to file Freedom of Information Act requests if it wants to get real answers about the FCC.
Dingell also sided with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in his letter. NAB says the FCC's proposals could harm TV stations. Genachowski's "failure" to respond more fully "leaves me no alternative but to conclude that the NAB's analysis is probably more correct than not."
An FCC official said after seeing Dingell's letter that it was "impossible" to provide a fuller answer.
"It is impossible for the FCC to answer the congressman's questions without knowing in advance which stations participate in the auction, which is not possible because the auction would be entirely voluntary," the official said by e-mail.