LAS VEGAS – Speaking at separate sessions during CES 2016 on Wednesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly looked forward to a “spectrum extravaganza” in March’s incentive auction, but clashed over the agency’s recent focus on net neutrality.
Responding to questions from CTA CEO Gary Shapiro, Wheeler said he expects the upcoming incentive auction to be a resounding success, with spectrum transfers in almost every major city in the country.
“You’re going to see lots of spectrum, lots of interest in selling spectrum and lots of interest in buying spectrum,” Wheeler said. “That is going to be transformational and is going to be essential to the kind of things that are going on downstairs on the show floor (at CES).”
Later in the day, the commissioners echoed Wheeler’s optimism about the auction. Should the sale be a huge success, O’Rielly said another auction may be possible within the next five years.
Both the chairman and the commissioners called for more unlicensed spectrum to encourage innovation. Expanding on growing spectrum needs, Wheeler said the “digital future is a future that enables spectrum sharing and requires sharing.”
However, Wheeler and the commissioners didn’t see quite as eye to eye on net neutrality.
While Wheeler defended the agency’s controversial net neutrality rules – which Shapiro referred to as a “big power grab for privacy” – as necessary to keep up with 21st century advancements in communications, Pai said the FCC has become preoccupied with the issue.
Pai said out of all the issues facing the FCC, including rural broadband deployment, wireless infrastructure, high-band spectrum and 5GHz spectrum, the commission would do better to focus its attention and energy elsewhere.
“This is a topic that has really distracted the agency and consumed a lot of staff resources,” Pai said. “One of the things I’ve found as I’ve traveled around the country…is that people are not so much interested in the FCC micromanaging network management techniques, they want to know how are we going to get better, faster, cheaper internet. And that’s where I think the agency should focus in 2016.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations