Supercommittee swings and misses, but spectrum bill still alive


The 12 Democrats and Republicans that made up the Select Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction were unable to overcome the same basic disagreements between the two parties that led to its creation in the first place. It meant that a revenue-generating plan involving television spectrum incentive auctions died in the committee. But the concept is still being pushed by the head of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has been battling for his S.911 for some time now – his main goal is to create an interoperable communications network for first responders, and the spectrum auctions are a big part of that bill.

It had been more or less co-opted by the supercommittee, but now, since they aren’t using it, Rockefeller plans to bring it back up.

Rockefeller stated, “I am troubled by the super committee’s failure to make good on their promise to deliver a deficit-reduction plan for America.  Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison and I recommended that the super committee include S.911, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act in their proposal. 
This bill would not only reduce the federal deficit by at least $6.5 billion but also provide first responders with a life-saving communications network and spur billions of dollars in economic investment.  Winning ideas like S.911 cannot keep falling victim to this partisan stubbornness.  I will continue to pursue all avenues to get S.911 enacted this year.”

RBR-TVBR observation: This is in no way a cut and dried matter. There is a big difference of opinion on how the safety network should be set up. Democrats tend to favor spectrum set aside and dedicated to first responder organizations. Republicans would rather sell it to the highest bidder, with the requirement that it be made available to first responders as needed.

On top of that, legislators from states near the Canadian border have been sounding the alarm about severe damage to broadcast television in their jurisdictions if great care is not taken with the necessary channel repacking that would be part of any auction plan. The possibility of general opposition from one party or the other depending on how a bill is written, combined with opposition from border states regardless of party, may conspire to slow this process down and give everybody time to come up with a carefully considered and workable solution that is fair to all.