Eshoo seeks auction of broadcast spectrum

Lawmaker highlights Congress' technology priorities at 'State of the Net' event

Spectrum auctions and privacy protection top U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo's list of technological priorities, though with partisanship and the economy dominating Washington, D.C., progress on Internet issues may be tough to reach during the current legislative session, the Silicon Valley lawmaker told a group of tech executives and attorneys Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 27).

Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, highlighted some of the committees' ongoing efforts at the annual State of the Net West conference in the Palo Alto headquarters of the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Front and center, she said, is a bill to "reform spectrum as we know it."

"Everyone wants to go wireless," Eshoo said. "There's an insatiable appetite for it."

Eshoo said auctioning off broadcast spectrum, which is currently held by TV broadcasters, would bring the nation about $25 billion in revenues. The airwaves would be auctioned off to wireless carriers, with some of the proceeds going to the TV broadcasters. A portion of the spectrum would also be used to set up a shared broadband system for public-safety departments.

Boosting the capacity of emergency responders to communicate with one another is a top priority, she said, especially given that a decade had already passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

"Shame on Congress," Eshoo said, adding that creating a nationwide interoperable communications network for public safety was one of the key recommendations of the 911 Commission. "I still wonder to this day what lives could've been saved if in fact police and fire were able to speak to each other."

Another major issue that her committee is wrestling with these days is online privacy protections, particularly for children. The Congress passed the Children Online Privacy Act a decade ago, she said, and technology has changed greatly since then. Some in her committee believe it's time to update the rules.

Though that debate is still playing out, one thing that Eshoo said the new rules should include is greater transparency. In other words, the customer should know, when he or she is providing information, how this information would be used.

"I don't want anyone tracking me," Eshoo said. "I want to know if someone is using any information about me and selling it to someone else."

The online-privacy issue is unlikely to get settled this year, she said. With Congress debating the national economy, the potential defaults of European nations and high unemployment, lawmakers may not have the appetite these days to rewrite online-privacy legislation. Because 2012 is an election year, progress on legislation will be particularly difficult to achieve, she said.

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Posted by JT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Eshoo's top priority should be jobs and the economy. Spectrum space will be auctioned off whether she's in Washington or not. This is a side issue. She should be addressing economic issues. It's embarrassing to see our congresswoman spend her time on silly things like that bill she worked on last year to reduce the volume of TV commercials. What about jobs? Economic growth?

Next year she will have to run in an open primary. I hope there is a serious minded Democrat who will take her on.

Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2011 at 12:16 am

IMO, this sounds like a spectrum grab by someone who is deep in the pockets of multi-billion-dollar Silicon valley interests. I'm sure Google, Apple, Yahoo!, etc. would just love to own all that spectrum, and Ms. Eshoo is just the tool to make it happen.

The airwaves are owned by the people, not by the federal government. The government is trying to sell something it doesn't own. It is analogous to selling portions of Yosemite or the Grand Canyon to corporations. The $25 billion raised will cover what, a couple of months' interest on the national debt?

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Posted by Pat Fischer
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 28, 2011 at 3:06 am

I agree with JT's statement and will take it a bit further---Ms. Eshoo is a do-nothing Congresswoman and, after 20 years, it's time for somebody new to represent this vibrant, progressive district. I'd like to see her step aside and have Joe Simitian move up to the House. If she doesn't, I would encourage Joe to challenge her in the primary.

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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 28, 2011 at 6:25 am

I would prefer Eshoo ask Obama to submit the jobs bill already and let Congress vote on it. Kinda hard to "Pass this bill NOW" when there ain't a bill!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

Overall, Eshoo has been a disappointment. She represents a handful of the elite that shower her with bucks. Enough.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm

> I would prefer Eshoo ask Obama to submit the jobs bill already and let Congress vote on it.

That's exactly what Eshoo is trying to sell with her media event. The wireless spectrum sale and billions for a national public safety wireless network are Title 1, Subtitle H of the "American Jobs Act" (see: Web Link) Some White House political hack must have decided that this is her part of the bill to sell because it involves electricity and, hey, this is Silicon Valley.

Unfortunately, both of these ideas aren't going to resonate with voters here. People are obviously fed up with Washington politics and are in no mood to shuffle billions of more taxpayer dollars to large corporations. If Ms Eshoo really wanted to win the hearts of voters, she would investigate why the tens of billions her committee in Washington already wasted on public safety radio upgrades hasn't solved the problem she's hysterically ranting about.

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Posted by grassroots
a resident of University South
on Sep 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

"Unfortunately, both of these ideas aren't going to resonate with voters here."

Based on what evidence? I imagine there are a lot of locals who like to see increased investment and/or availability of spectrum, more support of the local companies they work at, etc.., for what ultimately is the increased usability of some device in their pockets.

"People are obviously fed up with Washington politics"

Yes, I feel you are correct. I also feel that more locals than not are fed up with Anna Eshoo's opposition and their antics. My evidence for that claim? She has been re-elected for 20 years. I don't see any Republicans with their party of no mentality having even the slightest chance in this district.

The loudest opposition I seem to ever hear to her is a bunch of anonymous posters on these blogs. Do any of you people ever go to her meetings?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob March
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

"I don't see any Republicans with their 'party of no' mentality having even the slightest chance in this district."

Well, it's probably true that no Republican has a chance in the 14th district, but that's more of an indictment of the left-wing 'me-too' political monoculture of this area, than of the GOP. And as for that 'party of no' mentality: when Democrats present nothing more sophisticated than 'Let's spend more money even if we don't have it!', the only responsible answer is No.

"The loudest opposition I seem to ever hear to her is a bunch of anonymous posters on these blogs." And your name is really "grassroots", I suppose?

Like this comment
Posted by grassroots
a resident of University South
on Sep 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Well, Mr. Grassroots, actually, nice to meet you, Mr. March.... ;-)

"when Democrats present nothing more sophisticated than 'Let's spend more money even if we don't have it!',"

How soon some forget. Democrats are indeed the party of tax and spend - the fiscally responsible party. Quite sophisticated, in fact - exactly how it's supposed to work. Republicans are the party of BORROW FROM CHINA and spend, until they lose power, then they want to cut cut cut cut spending, but only after they lose power.

Let's go over the facts posted by so many on these boards:

Reagan tripled the national debt from ~ one trillion to three trillion

GHW Bush added a trillion

Clinton added a trillion but raised taxes and cut spending and had a $120 Billion SURPLUS as he left office.

GW Bush not only spent the SURPLUS but left us with trillion dollar deficits, after doubling the debt from 5 trillion to ten trillion. Indeed he also left the economy a shambles, not just a trillion dollar deficit, but losing 800,000 jobs a MONTH when he left.

Now the republicans want to cut cut cut, exactly the wrong thing to do to get out of this terrible Bush ecaonomy.

Obama took the 800,000 jobs lossses per month from Bush and has actually been able grow some jobs, not nearly enough, and it flatlined again a couple months ago when the GOP threatened to not pay the bills and shut down the government.

To recap: Republicans spend like crazy, borrowing from our enemies and leave the economy in shambles.

Democrats believe in sound fiscal policies of matching revenues with spending, as Clinton did. When is the last time a Republican president had a balanced budget?

When is the last time a Republican president had a great economy to turn over to a Democratic president?

Obama has to create jobs despite the Party of No blocking everything. He has to get this economy moving and growing again, so in 5 years, Jeb Bush can take it and destroy it in true Republican fashion.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob March
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 29, 2011 at 11:40 am

Sorry, Mr. Grassroots. No real name = no credibility. You said so yourself.

But your characterization of the Democratic party, as the responsible tax-and-spend party constantly frustrated by Republicans who irresponsibly want to borrow instead of tax, needs to be challenged.

From 1971 to 2011, the federal government ran deficits in all but 4 years (1998-2001). During that 40-year period, the Democrats held strong House majorities for 28 years, and Senate majorities for 24. Republicans controlled the House for only 12 years, and the Senate for only 16. The ten years in which Republicans controlled both houses of Congress included those lonely four years in which we did NOT run an annual deficit.

You point out that Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was president during those four years. But presidents can only propose budgets; actual spending bills must originate in the House and be concurred in by the Senate. Reagan found that out quickly, because his budgets were automatically condemned as "dead on arrival" by the Democratic-controlled House and Senate he had to work with for his first six years.

But would Clinton have gone along with balancing the budget without the terrible drubbing he took in the 1994 mid-term elections, which gave the House back to the Republicans (and conservative ones, at that) for the first time in 46 years? To answer that question, look at the budgets he proposed for the first two years of his first term, during which he enjoyed Democratic majorities in both houses: both budgets showed increases in deficit spending. The downward trend in deficits didn't begin until... 1994.

That's the reality that anyone can verify by spending a little time at the relevant government websites.

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Posted by grassroots
a resident of University South
on Sep 29, 2011 at 11:55 am

Mr March: "You point out that Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was president during those four years. "

Bush had the Senate, House and the White House from 2002 to 2006. Had the House from January 2001 to January 2007.

By your argument that Clinton's surplus was really a GOP surplus - what happened when the GOP had it all?

Deficits as far as the eye can see. They took Clinton's surplus and spent like drunken sailors (no offense to inebriated naval personnel.)

While the GOP took Clinton's surplus and started us on the ride to Bush's trillion dollar deficits, how many budgets did Bush veto?

Zero, zip, nada, none.

That's the reality that anyone can verify by spending a little time at the relevant government websites.

It was Clinton's surplus. When has a Republican president ever had a surplus?

Like this comment
Posted by Rita
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I agree that Anna Eshoo is a disappointment. I like the idea of replacing Eshoo with Joe Simitian. She hasn't done much for her district over the years and Joe is a hard worker who gets a lot accomplished. He'd be a great member of congress. I hope he runs against her in the primary, but I kind of doubt he will.

Like this comment
Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Sep 30, 2011 at 9:34 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

The following comments were moved from a duplicate thread:

Posted by JT, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sept. 27, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.:

Eshoo's top priority should be the economy and jobs. This spectrum space will be auctioned off whether she's in washington or not. This seems to be a distraction from what should be her focus. It's too bad she spent a considerable amount of her time passing a silly law about lowering the volume of tv commercials.

She'll have to run an open primary in 2012. Is there another Democrat out there who will challgenge her? I hope so.


Posted by Spectrum, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Sept. 27, 2011 at 7:48 p.m.:

Ms Eshoo is, like all incumbent politicians, a multitasker. She can do more than one thing. If she didn't, she never would have been reelected.

Odd about the volume bill, the only time I hear about it in a negative tone is this forum. Everyone (granted not many) I've heard talk about it supports it.

What would you have her do about jobs, as a minority member of the house?

Would love to know (before all the Eshoo haters polluter this thread!)


Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sept. 27, 2011 at 8:38 p.m.:

Does Eshoo have a degree, let alone a graduate degree in something relevant?

No she does not

Time for her to retire


Posted by RadioGuy, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sept. 27, 2011 at 8:47 p.m.
RadioGuy is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online:

I don't hate Ms Eshoo, but she's clearly unqualified to speak to these issues. Her position merely represents the interests of large wireless providers and telecommunications companies. Ms Eshoo appears willing to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer's money in the name of creating jobs, but the truth is that most of the money will go to directly line the pockets of multinational corporations and provide very little benefit the citizens of this country.

While raising money by auctioning off TV broadcast spectrum to wireless carriers is a noble idea, Ms Eshoo is simply being untruthful when she states that "there's an insatiable appetite" for wireless. Wireless carriers in the US have nearly 540MHz of spectrum, but are only using less than less than half of it, or about 200MHz, today. The remainder unused spectrum is effectively being squatted by the large wireless carriers as a competitive edge. Congress, with the help of the FCC, allows wireless carriers to license and leave unused their spectrum effectively forever. This is unlike Europe, which has a "use it or loose it" policy on radio spectrum wireless carrier licences.

Furthermore, Ms Eshoo should be ashamed of herself for conflating the "D Block" boondoggle with the radio communication problems in at the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11. This was already discussed on another thread, but the 911 Commission said absolutely nothing about building a nationwide wireless network for public safety. Washington has already funneled billions of taxpayer dollars through NTIA grants to cities across the country to upgrade public safety radio systems.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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