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GOP lawmakers urge FCC to delay incentive auction vote

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

House energy and commerce leadership is urging Federal Communications chairman Tom Wheeler to postpone Thursday’s scheduled vote on the incentive auction procedures after the agency released last-minute data.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on three major incentive auction items Thursday, but last Friday evening, the agency released simulation data related to the procedures item and waived the sunshine period to allow more presentations until the 7 p.m. the night before the vote.

In a letter sent to Wheeler Tuesday, committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and communications and technology chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) warned Wheeler that departing from standard commission procedures could “threaten the record and the auction itself,” especially something as critical to the future of spectrum policy as the broadcast incentive auction.

“The revised timeline and additional data placed into the record limits the commissioners’ ability to participate during the open meeting or make an informed vote, casting a shadow over an innovative and novel auction that could be this commission’s legacy,” Upton and Walden wrote.

Upton and Walden have repeatedly called Wheeler and the FCC on the carpet for departing from standard commission procedures and have advanced a bill in committee to reform FCC process.

“Here we go again. Like a broken record, we have heard the FCC leadership pledge repeatedly to improve process while continuing to find new ways to keep the public in the dark. …. When the commission acts to withhold data until the eleventh hour, it is going out of its way to keep the public and relevant stakeholders — including the commissioners — out of the process,” Upton and Walden said in a statement.

The National Association of Broadcasters complained to the FCC in two ex partes Monday and Tuesday that the six simulations for clearing spectrum targets, was inadequate compared to the hundreds of simulations the agency has run in the past. In an ex parte filed Tuesday, the NAB said the simulations “appears to reveal a serious flaw in the current auction design.”