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Program Assessment


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Auctions of Licenses for Electromagnetic Spectrum

This program aims to ensure that licenses for the use of the radio spectrum are assigned efficiently and effectively, in order to foster competition in wireless services and to ensure that the public is compensated for the use of the airwaves.


What This Rating Means

Moderately Effective

In general, a program rated Moderately Effective has set ambitious goals and is well-managed. Moderately Effective programs likely need to improve their efficiency or address other problems in the programs' design or management in order to achieve better results.
  • The Auctions program is an effective means of assigning licenses for the use of radio spectrum. Industry, government, and academic experts have noted the benefits of the use of auctions to assign spectrum, which include speed, low administrative cost, high transparency, and effectiveness in ensuring that the spectrum is put to its most highly valued use.
  • While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) obtained auction authority in 1993, only a small percentage of current spectrum licenses have been assigned by auction. Auctions are generally required when issuing new mutually exclusive licenses, though the agency is prohibited by statute from using auctions to assign some types of international satellite and public safety services.
  • The program uses a number of measures, related to both the wireless services market as well as program operations. However, the FCC should continue to examine optimal measures of program performance, particularly those that provide insight into long-term goals and results.

Improvement Plan

About Improvement Plans

We are taking the following actions to improve the performance of the program:

  • Ensuring that the radio spectrum is used efficiently by utilizing auctions to assign radio spectrum licenses whenever appropriate.
  • Proposing to make the FCC's auction authority permanent, to apply this authority to domestic commercial satellite licenses, and to use related economic mechanisms in managing un-auctioned licenses.
  • Continuing to refine performance measurement in the program by examining short-term measures against which targets can be set, and by focusing on a more limited set of long-term measures.

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The content on is developed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and Federal agencies.