Lessons From a Policy Success

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[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission is finishing an “incentive auction” of broadcast spectrum by which it created a market to match the price at which broadcasters were willing to sell spectrum with the price mobile operators were willing to pay. A bipartisan group of House Commerce Committee members described the outcome this way: “The incentive auction’s conclusion with more than $19 billion in bids marks the end of the second-largest auction and years of successful work in bringing market forces to bear on spectrum use policy. … Not only did the auction successfully encourage investment and competition by bringing 70 MHz of licensed and 14 MHz of unlicensed spectrum to meet our nation’s wireless broadband needs, but it also generated $7 billion for deficit reduction.” How did such a success occur and what lessons does it bring to today’s environment? Three stand out.

First, begin with a clear problem statement and generate bipartisan support for solving the problem.
Second, the solution should flow from a process that is transparent, fair, invites all to share credit and incorporates insights from a spectrum of stakeholders.
There’s one more lesson that might prove more controversial, though it shouldn’t. That is that smart, data-driven economic policy will create far more jobs and economic growth than ad hoc, stunt-driven events.

[Blair Levin is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institute Metropolitan Policy Project]


Lessons From a Policy Success