Lease Public Assets, Don't Give Them Away
Geoist Spectrum Policy Finally Embraced by Many
For more than 10 years, citizen groups such as Common Ground-U.S.A. have favored a smart, just policy for how to handle "spectrum assignment" -- the process of determing who gets to use which airwaves.
In the past, spectrum assignment has been a corrupt feeding frenzy as spectrum owners received huge windfalls of spectrum for free or almost free, cheating the taxpayers of America out of hundreds of billions of dollars. For examples of the corruption, see Airwave Auction Corrupted and Political Spectrum Assignment.
Common Ground-U.S.A. has consistently proposed that spectrum rights be leased to users, not sold; and that these rights should be auctioned off in a free, open market, not decided in a secret meeting of bureaucrats and lobbyists.Now a coalition of groups following Common Ground-U.S.A.'s recommendations has submitted a long argument to the Spectrum Policy Task Force of the Federal Communications Commission.
Among the coalition members are the New America Foundation, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, The Benton Foundation, the Center for Digital Democracy, the United Church of Christ, and the Media Access Project.
It is great to welcome so many large organizations to the economically just movement in favor of auctions for spectrum leases. No giveaways, no permanent sales.
(One must also say to these organizations, "What took you so long? Where were you folks in 1996, when Congress gave away $110 billion in spectrum for free to television station owners, and Common Ground-U.S.A. stood alone as the only voice for spectrum leasing?")
Here is a brief excerpt from the submission:
In short, rather than giving away valuable new spectrum rights to incumbents, or “selling” spectrum at a one-off auction that imposes massive up-front payments on bidders, the Commission should “lease” spectrum for a set term of years, allowing commercial users complete flexibility during the term of the lease. While Congress may choose to amend the Communications Act and promulgate a different path to spectrum allocation reform, the Commission is constrained by the Act to use a competitive means of assignment, to ensure compensation to the public for any new and valuable license rights, and to avoid the unjust enrichment of commercial users.
Indeed, the Supreme Court's decision in FCC v. Nextwave underscores the perils of auctions and the virtues of the lease model. The Court has now opened the door for parties to make outrageous bids to secure spectrum licenses, then hide behind the protection of the bankruptcy code. A lease model, by contrast, would reduce the need for costly up-front payments and would allow the Commission to maintain an ongoing level of supervision that would alleviate this danger.
The full argument is available at http://www.democraticmedia.org/resources/filings/finalComments1-27.doc
For more about common assets and how to protect them against corrupt government giveaways, see the Common Assets Headquarters
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