In an almost shocking display of ability to actually get something done, Congress is on the verge of passing an extension of the middle class payroll tax cut, among other things, and part of the bill will set in motion the long-discussed incentive auction program of television spectrum. Both NAB and CTIA signaled their approval of the measure to be adopted.
According to reports, Congress is expecting to bring in $22B from the auctions, $7B of which will go to the funding of a nationwide first responders communications system which has been a congressional goal every since the tragic events of 9/11.
Tweaking the auction part of the entire package was reported to be one of the sticking points after members of both parties were able to clear the bigger hurdles presented by a second go-around on the payroll tax issue which was highly controversial when dealt with at the end of 2011.
According to sources, the content of the bill likely to pass will give television broadcasters much to smile about – protections that the industry worked hard to include in the legislation is largely expected to be present.
After repacking, broadcasters can expect to reach the same audience as before; they should not have to move from UHF to VHF; and nearly $2B will be allocated to cover moving expenses for stations switching channels. The bill will also acknowledge the particular problems facing stations along the Canadian border.
Gordon Smith, the leader of NAB, stated, “NAB salutes the tireless efforts of Congress to ensure that local broadcasters have a vibrant and robust future. Special thanks go to Chairmen Upton and Walden for steering this bill to conclusion, and to Reps. Dingell and Bilbray for a critically important amendment guaranteeing continued viewer access to TV station signals along the Canadian and Mexican borders. Tens of millions of Americans rely every day on local TV broadcasters for news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather warnings. We look forward to working with Congress and the FCC to implement an incentive auction program that does not jeopardize that service.”
CTIA’s Steve Largent stated, “Today’s action to make repurposed broadcast spectrum available for wireless broadband service is vital to ensuring America’s wireless industry remains the world’s leader in the deployment of 4G services. As the Administration, Members of Congress, the FCC and other policymakers have recognized, making additional spectrum available for wireless broadband services will spur infrastructure investment, encourage job creation and foster innovation…This additional spectrum will help CTIA’s members meet Americans’ voracious appetite for mobile Internet anywhere and anytime.”