FCC to Drop Race, Gender Preferences Auction Discounts for Small Firms

Article excerpt

The Federal Communications Commission will propose eliminating special preferences for minorities and women at its next auction of the airwaves, an agency official said, in order to comply with a recent Supreme Court ruling. Instead, advantages will be extended to all small businesses, the official said.

The FCC had been planning to give discounts of up to 25 percent to minority- and women-owned businesses that win licenses to offer new wireless phone services. That plan was called into question last week, though, when the Supreme Court ruled that government programs giving preferences to minorities would be subject to "strict scrutiny."

Today, the FCC expects to propose replacing the race- and gender-based discounts with discounts for all small businesses. It also is expected to announce that it will delay the start of its next auction until either Aug. 28 or Sept. 5 from an originally scheduled Aug. 2.

The auction of 493 licenses to offer so-called personal communications services, or PCS, will be the fifth the FCC has held. …