House panel takes up spectrum auctions

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A bill coming from Republican members of the House Communications Subcommittee will be competing with one coming from the panel’s Democrats, but the numbers clearly favor the side led by panel Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). The NAB said that Walden’s version was a “major step forward.”


According to Hillicon Valley, both bills have more similarities than differences, but the sticking point is whether or not to allocate spectrum for unlicensed devices – Democrats want that, particularly Silicon Valley-connected panel Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA). The Republicans would rather auction off as much spectrum as possible.

Both plans feature incentive auctions of television spectrum, providing for voluntary participation by stations in return for a share of auction proceeds, along with compensation provided for stations forced to change channels in a repacking scheme.

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said, “Chairman Walden’s bill represents a major step forward in ensuring that local television stations will continue to be able to serve our vast and diverse audiences with local news, entertainment, sports and emergency weather information. Our position remains unchanged since this debate began: NAB has no quarrel with voluntary spectrum auctions so long as non-volunteer broadcasters and our viewers are not punished.”

Walden is calling the bill the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011, and says it’ll be good for $15B in deficit reduction. “Following nearly a year of hearings, meetings, and negotiations, I am disappointed that we could not develop a bipartisan bill. But for the sake of the economy and public safety, we need to take the best ideas, which are represented in the JOBS Act, and move forward with a subcommittee vote on Thursday.”

For those keeping score at home, the Thursday Walden refers to will occur on 12/1/11.

The Democratic bill is the Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act of 2011. Eshoo stated, “As mobile data usage continues to skyrocket, our bill will tackle this growing demand by expanding the availability of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. A 21st century spectrum policy must balance the needs of wireless carriers as well as those of entrepreneurs, innovators, and start-ups. At a time in which job creation and spurring new innovation are paramount to our nation’s economic recovery, we must act now. While there continue to be key policy differences with the approach taken by the Majority, I remain hopeful that Thursday’s Subcommittee markup will provide an opportunity to debate these differences and finally reach a bipartisan compromise.”