Broadband Plan: Spectrum Fees Could Be Extra Band-Clearing Incentive

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The Federal Communications Commission will propose levying spectrum fees on broadcasters and government users alike as a little incentive to clear off some of their spectrum.

According to a copy of the March 12 Hill briefing of the national broadband plan, under the summary of recommendations are two to "expand incentives and mechanisms available to reallocate or repurpose spectrum."

One is an auction; the other is "spectrum fees." The FCC has said it planned to pay broadcasters to voluntarily clear off their spectrum, which would be auctioned for wireless broadband.

But it also will recommend levying fees on broadcasters who choose not to take the buyout, which could prove another government prod in that voluntary program to give it up. "That would not be inconsistent with the language in the plan," said someone who had seen it.

"The recommendation is that Congress should grant authority on the FCC to impose spectrum fees on license holders, and NTIA to impose fees on users of government spectrum," said the source, reading from the plan. "The point being that this may help to free spectrum," the source added.

It was not clear whether that was more directed to broadcasters, or some of the other licensees whose spectrum may be in the crosshairs.

The spectrum portion of the plan also talks about "new unlicensed" and "opportunistic uses" of the spectrum.

A spokesman for the broadband plan was not available for comment at press time.

Spectrum fees crop up routinely in administration budgets and are as routinely excised by Congress, but the plan could provide added impetus.

The plan, which is being officially released next week, calls for reclaiming 500 MHZ from broadcasting and other users within 10 years.

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