The Catholic University of America




Alejandro Valencia builds his case before the audience and respondent Angela Kronenberg as part of the Columbus School of Law's new Student Scholar Series, instituted to recognize notable legal scholarship produced by students and to help them hone the skills associated with presenting and defending their work.


Second Presentation in CUA Law Student Scholar Series
Explores Best Use of Public Spectrum

On eBay, or even at CUA law's own annual SPIL auction, it's a lesson that sellers everywhere eventually learn: you can set whatever price you choose, but it doesn't mean a buyer is willing to pay it.

Government regulators were the latest group to be reminded of this basic law of economics when the Federal Communications Commission recently tried and failed to coax telecommunications industry companies to pay $1.3 billion dollars for use of a slice of the public airwaves.

The whole episode was described with knowledge, humor and passion by Alejandro Valencia, 4E, in remarks titled "The FCC's Regulatory Mulligan: Exploring the Options in the Wake of a Failed D Block Auction," which he delivered on March 10 in the Slowinksi Courtroom.

Valencia, currently an intern for Chief Judge Edward Damich of the United States Court of Federal Claims, is the second CUA law student chosen to participate in the law school's new Student Scholar Series that began last month. Conceived by Professor A.G. Harmon, the series provides a forum for students to present top-quality research and writing in a professional, conference-style setting, much the same way as law professors do.

Valencia's presentation, adapted from his article that has been accepted for publication this spring in the North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, recounted the issues at play in the FCC's attempted auction/sale of "D Block," a section of bandwidth with superior transmission characteristics that has previously been occupied by analog television transmissions. With the entire country transitioning by fits-and-starts away from analog to digital transmission of television signals, D Block spectrum is freeing up again. By FCC decree, the space can be auctioned off to the highest bidder, but with a major caveat: the licensee is required to work hand-in-hand with public-safety agencies to deploy a nationwide interoperable public-safety communications network.

Last month's auction of D Block spectrum drew little interest and only one bid, nearly $900 million below what FCC officials had hoped for.

"Obviously the price was too high," observed Valencia, who argued that the FCC's plan to re-auction the D Block spectrum under new conditions should not deviate from the current emphasis on using some of the air space for public safety purposes.

After his presentation, Valencia was peppered with questions from respondent Angela Kronenberg, attorney-advisor within the wireless telecommunications bureau at the FCC.

Kronenberg probed for fuller explanations of some of Valencia's statements, and posed some hypothetical questions. The role of the respondent is to keep presenters thinking on their feet, which Valencia did ably, joking with the audience after one question that "this wasn't rehearsed!"