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The Efficiency of the FCC Spectrum Auctions

  • Cramton, Peter

From July 1994 to July 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conducted nine spectrum auctions, raising about $20 billion for the U.S. Treasury. The auctions assigned thousands of licenses to hundreds of firms. Were the auctions efficient? Did they award the licenses to the firms best able to turn the spectrum into valuable services for consumers? There is substantial evidence that the FCC's simultaneous ascending auction worked well. it raised large revenues. It revealed critical information in the process of bidding and gave bidders the flexibility to adjust strategies in response to new information. As a result, similar licenses sold for similar prices, and bidders were able to piece together sensible sets of licenses. Copyright 1998 by the University of Chicago.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law & Economics.

Volume (Year): 41 (1998)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)
Pages: 727-36

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:41:y:1998:i:2:p:727-36
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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  1. Richard Engelbrecht-Wiggans & Charles M. Kahn, 1998. "Multi-unit auctions with uniform prices," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 227-258.
  2. Peter Cramton, 1997. "The FCC Spectrum Auctions: An Early Assessment," Papers of Peter Cramton 97jemsfcc, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 12 Jul 1998.
  3. Cramton, Peter C, 1995. "Money Out of Thin Air: The Nationwide Narrowband PCS Auction," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(2), pages 267-343, Summer.
  4. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton, 1995. "Demand Reduction and Inefficiency in Multi-Unit Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 98wpdr, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 22 Jul 2002.
  5. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton & R. Preston McAfee & John McMillan, 1997. "Synergies in Wireless Telephony: Evidence from the Broadband PCS Auctions," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(3), pages 497-527, 09.
  6. Milgrom, Paul R & Weber, Robert J, 1982. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1089-1122, September.
  7. Ian Ayres & Peter Cramton, 1996. "Deficit Reduction Through Diversity: How Affirmative Action at the FCC Increased Auction Competition," Papers of Peter Cramton 96slr, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 09 Jun 1998.
  8. Ballard, Charles L & Shoven, John B & Whalley, John, 1985. "General Equilibrium Computations of the Marginal Welfare Costs of Taxes in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-38, March.
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