Spectrum issue on the Hill building a head of steam


The House Communications Subcommittee is marking up a bill concerning the repurposing of spectrum in the television band for wireless broadband use, with a likely winner coming from Republican members and a competing plan from the Democrats. On the Senate side, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is ready to maneuver.

But not so fast — House Democrats want more time – see related story.

The NAB has already said it sees things to like in the approach to the issue taking by Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). Its major concern is making sure that television stations are not forced into anything, survive with their audience reach and the integrity of their channel intact, and are not hit with costs associated with any forced channel relocation.

Consumer Electronics Association President/CEO Gary Shapiro has also weighed in on the topic, welcoming the markup with the statement, “Fewer than 10 percent of Americans now rely on over-the-air spectrum to watch TV while the exploding use of wireless devices has made the need for more spectrum increasingly dire. As the holiday shopping season has kicked off, in which consumer electronics account for half of all purchases, spectrum-hungry tablets and smartphones have been among the most popular products. These hot products underscore the need for more spectrum, and we commend Chairman Walden for this legislation.”

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Rockefeller has stated that there is a strong possibility that his own version of a spectrum bill may never come to a vote on the floor of the full body. A clarification from Rockefeller’s staff noted that this in no way means he has given up on the topic for 2011. Far from it – he is exploring ways to attach the measure to any omnibus, deficit or gang of six measure that comes before the body, allowing it to ride into enactment on the coattails of something larger.

This is of course exactly what would have happened had it been part of a supercommittee package.
In fact, Rockefeller and his staff are encouraged that the attention from the House increases the chances of getting legislation to the Oval Office one way or another in the very near future.