Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

50 Federal Communications Law Journal 1 (1997)


Although the FCC and courts have concluded that licensees have certain property interests in their licenses, they do not acquire any ownership interests even when, via a spectrum auction, they pay for their licenses. What narrow property interests licensees maintain are limited, and the FCC has broad power to modify existing licenses if doing so is in the public interest. License owners have sought to limit or defeat otherwise lawful FCC actions to alter their licenses by asserting a reliance interest on prior agency action or policy. Licensees may find comfort in the fact that some courts have acknowledged these claims, and have determined that the FCC, at a minimum, must treat licensees equitably. It is proposed that, even in the absence of traditional property rights, such claims be available to facilitate careful judicial review of FCC action.