Democrats and Republicans are said to have the broad outlines of a deal in place to handle an extension of payroll tax cuts and other items. And part of the deal, included to help fund the cut, is a plank to authorize the FCC to conduct incentive auctions of spectrum in the television space.
The auctions would first repack television into a narrower spectrum band one way or another, with proponents hoping that some stations will simply agree to cease to exist in exchange for proceeds from the auction.
An article in Hillicon Valley noted that it was part of the current negotiations on the payroll tax.
In general, Democrats favor a bidding process that makes sure smaller companies have a chance to win some spectrum holes; Republicans favor no FCC intervention along these lines, as it would constitute picking winners and losers; Democrats tend to favor making more space available for unlicensed devices; Republicans tend to favor less space and as much auction income as possible. In the House spectrum bill, an amendment takes aim at FCC network neutrality provisions, which Democrats called a poison pill.
RBR-TVBR observation: Apparently, despite the fact that the two parties do not yet see eye-to-eye on the matter, spectrum auctions cannot afford their own legislative vehicle, and are forced to hitchhike on other bills. If this isn’t the magic moment for auctions to get through, what’s next? Will it be a rider on a resolution celebrating National Bean Sprout Week?