WASHINGTON-Incoming House telecommunications subcommittee head Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said he’s irked by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2.3 GHz auction plan.

“It’s a real serious problem,” said Tauzin, in an interview with RCR.

Tauzin has met with FCC Chairman Reed Hundt to relay wireless telecom industry fears that licensing more personal communications services companies could undercut financing and competitive prospects of those C-block PCS auction winners and bidders in the ongoing D-, E- and F-block auction that buy wireless permits.

As such, the industry favors restricting the 30 megahertz for services other than PCS. The FCC proposed a flexible approach. Wireless Internet access is seen as a potentially popular application.

The wireless industry opposes nationwide licensing of the 2305-2320 MHz and 2345-2360 MHz bands, arguing it would be inconsistent with current FCC policy and unfair to wireless carriers who’ve paid top dollar to patch together regional and semi-national networks.

The FCC, which is said to have unofficially taken that option off the table, would sacrifice revenue in a nationwide license auction but would be more apt to start and end bidding by the congressionally mandated April 15 and Sept. 30 dates.

Congress freed up the airwaves, part of a block allocated for digital satellite radio service, as a concession to President Clinton to help pay for the $6.5 billion in domestic programs in fiscal 1997 sought by the White House.

The deal between the Republican-controlled Congress and the administration was struck before lawmakers adjourned the 104th session to campaign for the fall elections.

The 2.3 GHz auction plan, being budget driven, has further angered lawmakers with telecommunications oversight. The friction between budgeteers and telecom policymakers is expected be aired in spectrum reform hearings next year.

The Personal Communications Industry Association and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association have been lobbying regulators and lawmakers about their objections to the auction proposal since its release Nov. 12. Written comments on the FCC plan are due this week.

“We’re asking [the FCC] to examine other options to make sure you don’t have unintended consequences,” Tauzin said.

When Congress settles in next year, Tauzin said he will scrutinize FCC implementation of the 1996 telecommunications reform act. “The FCC has overstepped its authority,” he said, not hiding his disdain for the interconnection decision that states and local Bell telephone companies are challenging in court.

The crafty Cajun, who left the Democratic Party for the GOP in 1995, said he also plans to put the FCC under the microscope and possibly the knife.

“Is this old model the right model to carry out deregulation?” he asked.

Tauzin said outgoing House telecommunications subcommittee Chairman Jack Fields’ (R-Texas) bill to streamline the FCC was “much too modest.”

He said the British system, designed to deregulate itself out of existence, could guide Congress.

“I’m concerned this is an agency that is conditioned to regulate and that bothers me,” Tauzin said.

He added that the political nature of the Hundt regime is troublesome as well.

International satellite policy also will be reviewed next year, according to Tauzin.

Wallace Henderson, a lobbyist for CTIA who Tauzin brought to Washington 18 years ago, describes the new House telecom subcommittee chairman as a master salesman and negotiator.

“He’s ideal at working with other lawmakers to get votes,” said Henderson, likening him to a bee going from flower to flower.

Henderson said Tauzin is highly persuasive, being more apt to convince than be convinced, and is competitive. Tauzin also is said to be a big team player.

For sure, Tauzin owes the chairmanship to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who picked Tauzin over Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) for the telecommunications and finance panel despite Oxley’s telecom policy expertise.

Oxley, as a result of a deal worked out by Thomas Bliley (R-Va.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, will assume jurisdiction over finance under a yet-to-be determined subcommittee shakeup.

“Bliley will be well served by Billy Tauzin,” said Henderson.


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