Reps introduce spectrum bill


Cliff StearnsA group of reps have started up a working group with a mission to free spectrum for wireless broadband – and it looks like one of them and a partner have already found some. The pair – Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) want to auction off government-held spectrum and hope to raise $12B.

Matsui is co-chair of the Federal Spectrum Working Group. Stearns formerly led the Republicans on the House Communications Subcommittee and now heads the Oversight Subcommittee, part of Energy and Commerce.

The pair stated, “To maximize revenues, H.R. 4817, the Efficient Use of Government Spectrum Act introduced today by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) would require the FCC to pair the 1755-1780 block and the 2155-2180 block, already set for auction, for reallocation and auction for commercial wireless use.”

They noted that the 1755-1780 block had originally been earmarked for reallocation, but then pulled from the bill that was eventually passed – it is their intent to put it back on the auction block.

Each explained the measure in some length – here are their statements:

Stearns said, “Today we take the next step forward in bringing the 1755-1780 band to auction for commercial wireless use.  The rise of smartphones and tablets has dramatically increased demand for spectrum.  It is estimated that by 2016, mobile broadband subscriptions will reach 5 billion and U.S. mobile data traffic will grow 16-fold, with 74% of mobile users (214 million people) generating more than one gigabyte of mobile data traffic per month.  Requiring the FCC to pair for auction the 1755-1780 band with the 2155-2180 band will bring more spectrum to the market and to consumers and raise $12 billion, most of which will go to the U.S. Treasury.  At the same time the bill takes responsible steps for ensuring DoD and other federal agencies are well protected by following the recommendations set forth in the March 2012 NTIA Report.” 
Matsui added, “We are faced with a spectrum crunch in our country and consumers continue to demand the latest smartphones and devices, which will only increase demand. It is estimated that by 2014, mobile data traffic will be 35 times 2009 levels, and the resulting deficit in wireless broadband spectrum is expected to be 275 MHz by 2014. This bipartisan legislation moves us a step closer to bringing an additional 25MHz of federal spectrum to auction for commercial wireless services. This bill also seeks to provide the necessary and responsible safeguards for DoD and other federal agencies to relocate, if necessary, by following the recommendations set forth in the March 2012 NTIA Report. Additionally, the proceeds from the auction will go either toward building out our nation’s public safety interoperability network, or to the U.S. Treasury. This bill is a win-win for consumers, and for American innovation.”

The Federal Spectrum Working Group was established by the leaders of the Communications Subcommittee, Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and is comprised of co-chairs Matsui and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), along with John Shimkus (R-IL), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), John Barrow (D-GA) and Donna Christensen (D-VI).

RBR-TVBR observation: Anything that helps take pressure off the television spectrum band is a good thing. However, it is doubtful that big wireless companies will be placated, since television spectrum is powerful and is considered to be beachfront property. Plus we have to think that wireless interests would like to see broadcast weakened for simple competitive reasons. But as long as the incentive auctions in the television space remain truly voluntary, broadcasters should do just fine.