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The Efficiency of the FCC Spectrum Auctions

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  • Cramton, Peter

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Cramton, Peter, 1998. "The Efficiency of the FCC Spectrum Auctions," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 727-736, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:41:y:1998:i:2:p:727-36
    DOI: 10.1086/467410
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    1. Richard Engelbrecht-Wiggans & Charles M. Kahn, 1998. "Multi-unit auctions with uniform prices," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 12(2), pages 227-258.
    2. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton & Marek Pycia & Marzena Rostek & Marek Weretka, 2014. "Demand Reduction and Inefficiency in Multi-Unit Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(4), pages 1366-1400.
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    4. 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, September.
    5. 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.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Raphaële Préget, 2004. "Adjudications des valeurs du Trésor," Revue Française d'Économie, Programme National Persée, vol. 18(4), pages 63-110.
    3. Lawrence J. White, 2006. "Focusing More on Outputs and on Markets: What Financial Regulation Can Learn from Progress in Other Policy Areas," NFI Policy Briefs 2006-PB-18, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
    4. Emiel Maasland & Sander Onderstal, 2006. "Going, Going, Gone! A Swift Tour of Auction Theory and its Applications," De Economist, Springer, vol. 154(2), pages 197-249, June.
    5. Englmaier, Florian & Guillén, Pablo & Llorente, Loreto & Onderstal, Sander & Sausgruber, Rupert, 2009. "The chopstick auction: A study of the exposure problem in multi-unit auctions," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 286-291, March.
    6. SaÄŸlam, YiÄŸit & Ho, Phuong & Daglish, Toby, 2012. "Auctioning the Digital Dividend: a Model for Spectrum," Working Paper Series 4129, Victoria University of Wellington, The New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation.
    7. Guala, Francesco, 2006. "Getting the FCC auctions straight: A reply to Nik-Khah," economic sociology. perspectives and conversations, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 7(3), pages 23-28.
    8. Andrés Pereyra, 2001. "Subasta de telefonía móvil: ¿una experiencia inconclusa en Uruguay?," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0302, Department of Economics - dECON.
    9. W. Tom Whalen & Dennis W. Carlton & Ken Heyer & Oliver Richard, 2007. "Proposal For A Market-Based Solution to Airport Delays," EAG Competition Advocacy Papers 200714, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
    10. Longstaff, Francis A & Han, Bing & Merrill, Craig, 2004. "Revenue Implications of Multi-Item Multi-Unit Auction Designs: Empirical Evidence from the U.S. Treasury Buyback Auctions," University of California at Los Angeles, Anderson Graduate School of Management qt7344v866, Anderson Graduate School of Management, UCLA.
    11. Lawrence J. White, 2006. "The Fishery as a Watery Commons: Lessons from the Experiences of Other Public Policy Areas for US Fisheries Policy," Working Papers 06-18, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    12. Tomomi Tanaka, 2005. "Resource allocation with spatial externalities: Experiments on land consolidation," Experimental 0511004, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Peter Cramton, 2002. "Spectrum Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 01hte, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 16 Jul 2001.
    14. Coenen, Heide & Holler, Manfred J. & Niskanen, Esko, 2000. "5th Helsinki Workshop on Standardization and Networks, 13-14 August, 2000," Discussion Papers 243, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    15. Daglish, Toby & Sağlam, Yiğit & Ho, Phuong, 2017. "Auctioning the Digital Dividend: A model for spectrum auctions," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 63-98.
    16. John Hoven, 2007. "Anticompetitive Restraints on Public Charter Schools," EAG Competition Advocacy Papers 200711, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
    17. Lawrence White, 2000. ""Propertyzing" the Electromagnetic Spectrum: Why It's Important, and How to Begin," Working Papers 00-08, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    18. Tim Roughgarden & Inbal Talgam-Cohen, 2018. "Approximately Optimal Mechanism Design," Papers 1812.11896, arXiv.org, revised Aug 2020.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • L96 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Telecommunications

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