Bidding for regional licenses in the FCC's 700 Mhz auction passed the $19.3 billion mark Tuesday and before the auction concludes total bidding seems likely to hit $20 billion -- double the $10 billion amount that was universally cited as a successful figure before the auction began.
And, the total has been reached without significant contribution from the D Block, which was designed to be available for a combination commercial/public safety nationwide network. While bidding for the D Block has dried up, desire for a public safety net definitely hasn't.
"We now know that only the D Block may not sell in this auction," Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) said in a statement. "The construction of a nationwide, next-generation, interoperable broadband network for public safety is a crucial policy objective, and the need for such a network has not diminished."
As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell has pushed aggressively for a nationwide public safety network. With valuable D Block spectrum expected to still be available after the auction concludes, the FCC is expected to re-bid at least some of the spectrum using new rules.
Bidding for the C Block has stalled for days, and speculation has grown that Verizon Wireless placed the leading $4.74 billion bid for the spectrum in the secret auction. Google, which had campaigned aggressively to create the spectrum block for interchangeable devices and services, is the likely second bidder for the C Block band.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said recently that he hoped a bidder would emerge for the D Block to improve public safety responses. "If no one steps forward, the commission will have to reevaluate," he told reporters.