House Lawmakers Want to Block Auction

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Key House lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next week that would block
the Federal Communications Commission from auctioning occupied TV spectrum June
19.

Ken Johnson, spokesman for House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy
Tauzin (R-La.), said Tauzin would offer the bill with Reps. John Dingell
(D-Mich.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

Johnson said the bill would postpone the auction indefinitely and would not
establish a new auction date.

'Simply put, this auction is not ready for primetime,' Johnson said, adding
that the bill could generate enough support in Congress to become law within 60
days.

Plans for legislation surfaced a few hours after Commerce Department
secretary Donald Evans sent the FCC a letter on behalf of the White House
seeking an auction postponement.

Evans said Congress needed 'sufficient time' to craft new policies. He added
that because 'significant uncertainty remains today' as to when TV stations
would actually vacate the spectrum, an auction in two months 'would be premature
and contrary to the public interest.'

The FCC is trying to sell spectrum in channels 52 through 69 for billions of
dollars, even though the most likely bidders, wireless phone carriers, can't use
the spectrum until dozens of TV stations vacate the space. The stations can
remain until 85 percent of TV households have digital receivers.

Paxson Communications Corp., a major TV-station owner in the 60-through-69
band, has organized a TV-station coalition that wants to get paid perhaps
hundreds of millions of dollars from the wireless carriers to leave the spectrum
on an expedited basis.

Last week, the FCC rejected a request from the cellular-phone industry for an
auction delay -- a move supported by Paxson.

Paxson spokeswoman Nancy Udell said the company did not think the proposed
House legislation had a realistic chance of becoming law soon.

'Getting it passed takes time, and Paxson believes it won't clear the
Senate,' she added.

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