Michael Selkirk

91 Texas L. Rev. 1561

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In February 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, authorizing the FCC to use voluntary incentive auctions as a mechanism for repurposing spectrum.  These auctions give television broadcasters, to which spectrum is currently tethered, the option to voluntarily sell their allocated spectrum back to the government.  The relinquished spectrum can then be relicensed for multiple uses and re-auctioned to companies that supply mobile data plans.  To participate, broadcasters have the option of (1) relocating from their current channel to a new channel that will be shared with another auction participant, (2) relocating to a new (but perhaps less desirable) frequency, or (3) fully relinquishing their spectrum.

In this Note, Mr. Selkirk argues that, from a policy and economic perspective, the third option—full relinquishment—best accomplishes the goal of reallocating spectrum.  Part II discusses the modern regulatory framework, focusing on the inadequate mechanisms for repurposing spectrum for higher value use and introduces the voluntary incentive auction.  Parts III and IV provide an overview of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, and argue that full relinquishment is the optimal broadcaster choice to help curb the spectrum inadequacies facing the nation.  Part V outlines possible incentives to coax broadcasters to fully relinquish and program on other mediums.