Hollings chastises Powell

Oct 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Democratic Sen. Ernest Hollings has accused FCC Chairman Michael Powell of overstepping his regulatory bounds.
In what may be political payback for all the heat former Democratic FCC Chairman Bill Kennard took from Republican lawmakers on this issue, Sen. Hollings, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, fired off an Oct. 17 missive to Mr. Powell warning him against “bending the law to meet the excessive demands of industry.”
The senator’s main gripe is that the Federal Communications Commission recently approved a plan-crafted by Paxson Communications and other broadcasters-that lets TV stations operating on analog channels 60 to 69 seek compensation from wireless phone companies in exchange for clearing the band early.
The government originally planned to just auction the spectrum, which broadcasters will relinquish as part of their transition to digital TV.
But there was concern that an auction would not raise much money because broadcasters weren’t required to return the spectrum until 2006, or possibly much later, depending on levels of DTV signal penetration. Now broadcasters have an incentive to clear the band quickly. Wireless firms will still have to win the spectrum at an auction, which will presumably raise more for the U.S. Treasury than before.
But Sen. Hollings called the arrangement “outrageous.”
He wrote: “Under the law, the FCC is also required to reassign channels 60 to 69 through an auction. When Congress enacted these statutory provisions, it did not envision that the FCC would hand over its authority to manage spectrum to industry and the marketplace.”
FCC officials had no comment.