Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 24, 2014

Golden Goose Awards Honor Spectrum Auction Brainpower

Robert Wilson, Paul Milgrom and R. Preston McAfee will each receive Golden Goose Awards for work that led to the design of the first Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction.

The awards, offered by a group of university, research and other organizations, go to researchers whose federally-funded work has spurred big social impact.

Here’s how Wilson’s, Milgrom’s and McAfee’s efforts eventually helped out the federal government, according to a news release:

Fast forward to 1993, when Congress granted the FCC authority to auction portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This was uncharted territory and an extraordinarily complex undertaking. The FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking contained a framework for the auction, which cited Milgrom’s work as its basis.  Contacted for advice by a company that was interested in participating in the auction, Milgrom thought he could come up with a better design than that proposed by the FCC and reached out to his former thesis advisor. Wilson and Milgrom developed an auction process called a simultaneous multiple round (SMR) auction, also known as a simultaneous ascending-bid auction. Separately, McAfee was consulting with a different telecommunications company and came up with a similar idea.The FCC asked the three economists to work together, and they designed the first auction. Wilson and Milgrom contributed the fundamental idea that all of the individual auctions should conclude simultaneously. McAfee’s work was especially important for dealing with other practical issues, such as how to address defaults by bidders and how to ensure participation by women- and minority-owned businesses.

The entities involved in the award are: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Breakthrough Institute, Progressive Policy Institute, Richard Lounsbery Foundation, The Science Coalition, Task Force on American Innovation, and United for Medical Research.

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