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Companies Fight to Influence Auction Rules Companies Fight to Influence Auction Rules

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House Energy and Commerce Committee

Companies Fight to Influence Auction Rules

On spectrum issues, wireless carriers and cable companies account for the most active lobbying. The top three are AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, followed by trade groups such as the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.(shutterstock.com)

photo of Brian Fung
April 17, 2013

On spectrum issues, wireless carriers and cable companies account for the most active lobbying. The top three are AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, followed by trade groups such as the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

To get a better deal on the spectrum they’re buying, many would prefer to see the Federal Communications Commission avoid dictating the terms of the auction. Allowing the government to set a starting price, for example, could discourage broadcasters from relinquishing their spectrum. Telecom operators worry that reluctance, in turn, would limit the amount of spectrum they would be able to buy up.

Other groups want the government to set more spectrum aside for unlicensed use. Consumer advocates such as Public Knowledge have argued that innovation suffers when telecom companies clamp down on access to their spectrum or charge people for using it. Establishing spaces in the spectrum that nobody owns gives rise to useful public technologies such as Wi-Fi, they say.

 

In the run-up to the spectrum auction, interest groups have funneled tens of thousands of dollars to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., received $51,500 from the telecom industry in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who in 2010 took over as chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, received nearly $94,000 last year. And the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Anna Eshoo of California, accepted $55,000.

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