Incentive Auction Bill Faces Lengthy Markup


The Senate Commerce Committee's planned June 8 markup of an incentive auction bill could prove to be a marathon undertaking.

According to copies of draft amendments--there are nearly 100 of them--including 30 from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) alone that move up dates, change language, strike sections and add others.

The bill (appropriately numbered S. 911) would allow the FCC to compensate broadcasters for moving off some of their spectrum--a projected 120 MHz--to make room for more wireless broadband. It would also allow allocate the D block of spectrum to first responders for an interoperable broadband emergency communications network rather than auction it, as Congress originally designated.

Many Republicans, including leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, would prefer that the block still be allocated, which could prove an impediment to the swift passage of the bill that its sponsor, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.), had been pushing for.

Rockefeller wants the bill passed and to the president before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Creating the emergency network was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

At a Hill hearing on the auctions May 25, house Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) raised a number of issues in suggesting that the problem with getting the network built might not be about more spectrum or money.

They pointed out that, according to the Congressional Research Service, some $13 billion in federal funds for equipment had already gone to public safety since 2001 and about 100 MHz of spectrum had been allocated, and no interoperable system had emerged.