House Communications Subcommittee OK's Spectrum Auction Bill

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House Communications Subcommittee OK's Spectrum Auction Bill - 2011-12-01 18:42:40 | Broadcasting & Cable
The House Communications Subcommittee Thursday approved in a 17 to 6 vote along party lines a Republican version of a spectrum incentive auction bill that would give the FCC the authority to pay broadcasters for voluntarily exiting the spectrum to be auctioned for broadband use, and set aside as much as $3 billion to compensate broadcasters left behind for moving or sharing channels.

That $3 billion is three times as much as Democrats were proposing in their version and was the subject of some debate, as were a number of issues.

The bill will now go to full committee for markup, where Democrats said they hoped they could negotiate compromises, though they got no promises from the Republican majority. The auction is projected to return at least $15 billion to the treasury for deficit reduction after paying broadcasters and for the care and feeding of an interoperable emergency communications network.

A separate Senate bill has passed the Commerce Committee and is awaiting a floor vote.

The House's Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011 that passed out of the subcommittee requires the FCC to do its best to preserve the coverage areas and interference protections of broadcasters who do not give up spectrum, compensates cable operators for any costs of picking up reconfigured broadcast signals, and prevents the FCC from forcing stations on UHF channels to move to VHF, which is not as robust for DTV.
A Democrat amendment to substitute its own bill was defeated, and withdrawn were amendments that would have authorized FCC commissioner to hire engineer/advisers to help with spectrum issues, and one that would have given tax credits to broadcasters who used some of the money they got from the government for giving up spectrum to invest in small and disadvantaged businesses.

Ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) warned that the amendment preventing the auction conditions was a poison pill that could kill the bill in the Senate.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who with Rep. Brian Bibray (R-Calif.) co-sponsored the amendment requiring the FCC to resolve the border issues, took a few shots at the commission for failing to provide adequate responses to his concerns about those issues, which include the possibility that there could be no frequencies left in Detroit. He said the FCC had been secretive, unhelpful and nonresponsive to his concerns, and said the amendment would insure that border stations would continue to provide "proper service" to their viewers.
 
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