The FCC is expected to vote on new spectrum for the 2024 Olympics in a vote that could take place within days.
The commission will meet on Thursday for its fifth vote on whether to approve the new spectrum, a vote expected to last several hours.
If the FCC approves the new frequency, it will create the world’s largest single-use wireless spectrum auction in history, a process that could begin in less than two weeks, as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and others have promised.
The spectrum would be allocated to a private company, which would then sell the spectrum to a local community, which could then purchase it at a higher price.
The auction could end up costing anywhere from $5 billion to $15 billion per company, but the commission has yet to set a price for the new airwaves.
The auction process is expected finish by May.
In order to have the airwaves allocated to the private company in the first place, Wheeler and other commissioners will have to give the public more information about the new frequencies.
The FCC has previously rejected public comments on the proposed new airways, arguing that it is necessary to protect the privacy of consumers.
Critics of the auction process say the auction will be more expensive than the spectrum would allow, and that it will make it harder for wireless carriers to compete in an industry that already has a relatively high level of spectrum.
Wheeler has said the FCC’s proposed rules will allow wireless carriers the opportunity to compete with traditional cable, telephone and satellite companies.
“The FCC’s recent public comment process was an attempt to ensure that there was transparency and accountability in the process, while also ensuring that the public was informed of the proposed spectrum auction,” an FCC spokesperson told Ars.
“While the Commission did receive thousands of public comments in support of its proposed spectrum allotment, the Commission decided not to allocate the proposed airwaves to the public in the public comment period.
As a result, the public will be subject to a process in which they may not know if they are being given the right information or being given inaccurate information about what the Commission is proposing.”
The new spectrum auction process also could lead to an uneven distribution of spectrum in the United States.
According to an analysis by a group of experts, the new auction will have a net positive impact on spectrum availability in the U.S., with wireless carriers getting the same amount of spectrum they would have received if the auction had gone through as opposed to being allocated to smaller players like Charter Communications.
According to the study, Charter would receive around 70% of the new capacity that it would have been allocated to under the previous spectrum auction.
The same goes for Sprint and AT&T, who each would get around 60% of their spectrum from the new auctions.
“These allocations will be uneven across the country, with the same spectrum being allocated more often to smaller carriers like Sprint and/or AT<d,” the report says.
The FCC will consider the new proposals in an upcoming meeting, and a final decision on the airways’ allocation is expected by June.