Legislators try to insert white space protection into tax measure


Two members of the US congressional delegation from California are concerned about the health and well-being of constituents in the state’s Silicon Valley. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) want unlicensed white space available after any TV channel repacking project, and having failed to get this in a House bill that includes incentive spectrum auctions, they are now trying to push it into a possible bill from a conference committee taking up a payroll tax cut extension.

It’s not that some members are against the idea of spectrum for unlicensed devices – they are definitely against leaving money on the table that be earned at auction; for that reason, the majority in the House Energy and Commerce Committee declined to make as much spectrum available for unlicensed devices as Eshoo and Issa would have liked.

Eshoo and Issa were supported by a bipartisan group of over 40 legislators, and fired off a letter to conference committee chairs Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).

The duo wrote, “It’s estimated that unlicensed spectrum generates between $16-37 billion each year for the U.S. economy.  As a result, it’s absolutely essential that the U.S. not close the door on this exciting area of innovation which can help enhance rural broadband coverage, reduce energy costs and pave the way for new technologies that have yet to be invented.  In the letter, the Members state that smart spectrum policy ‘must recognize that both licensed and unlicensed spectrum in the television band maximizes the economic benefits of wireless broadband. With a balanced approach to spectrum policy, we can unlock billions of dollars in private investment, new innovations, job creation, and economic growth.’”

RBR-TVBR observation: This exemplifies Congress at its most frightening. We have a complex and highly technical issue that pits one industry against another, which also will strongly impact consumers, and the whole issue turns into a bargaining chip at a Capitol Hill poker table. This is no way to set communications policy for the next decade.