The long slow process of getting spectrum to emergency first responders is continuing its slog through Congress. In the House, John Dingell (D-MI) (pictured) and Gene Green (D-TX) have introduced a bill bookending one sponsored by Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in the Senate. The Dingell-Green bill protects television spectrum in no uncertain terms, a fact that earned the thanks of NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith.
The bill, HR 2482, is called the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, and according to its sponsors, it differs from the Senate version precisely in its treatment of broadcast television.
In a release, the sponsors said that the bill does allow the FCC to accumulate spectrum, but it “…makes explicit that the Commission may conduct only one incentive auction, that broadcasters not be coerced into relinquishing spectrum, that broadcasters be fully compensated for costs associated with repacking, and that if broadcasters are repacked they maintain the same capabilities and broadcasting footprint that they had prior to the auction.”
“Although I recognize the country’s growing need for spectrum, that spectrum should not be forcibly and unfairly taken from broadcasters, which also would negatively impact consumers,” said Dingell. “Our bill ensures that a voluntary incentive auction will be truly voluntary and provide a fair opportunity to grow the Nation’s wireless spectrum inventory.”
“It is true that our country’s consumers and wireless companies need more spectrum,” added Green. “That spectrum, however, cannot be unfairly taken from broadcasters, who provide free, over-the-air, local programming to all Americans. It is important to remember the broadcasters play an important role in emergency preparedness by transmitting critical information when cellular networks are down. Broadcasters also promote diversity in the media marketplace through local programming. In short, without the protections we have incorporated into this bill, broadcasters across the country that do not affirmatively decide to exit the marketplace may be forced out without so much as a say in the matter. That’s just plain unfair and also harms the public interest.”
“I am writing to thank you for your efforts to preserve the ability of all Americans to receive a robust, free, over-the-air television signal…” wrote Smith in a letter to the duo. “America’s broadcasters work hand-in-hand with our nation’s first responders in times of emergencies. We fully understand and support efforts to address our first responders’ need for state-of-the-art communications. We also recognize the need for a national communications policy that includes robust broadband service. However, it is vitally important that when settling that policy, Congress protects the interest of hundreds of millions of television viewers and the services that free local TV stations provide.”