Rockefeller Introduces Spectrum Bill

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced a bill that would authorize an incentive auction to reimburse broadcasters for spectrum reclaimed by the government, but only so long as it was given up voluntarily.

The bill, whose primary purpose is to allocate spectrum and funds to create a national, interoperable public safety network, also gives the Federal Communictions Commission the incentive auction authority with this caveat: "The Commission may not reclaim frequencies licensed to broadcast television 3 licensees or other licensees, directly or indirectly, on an involuntary basis."

There are already a couple of incentive auction bills in the works, including a Senate bill introduced by Senate Communications Subcommittee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and senior Commerce Committee member Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) that would levy a spectrum fee on the broadcasters who don't give up spectrum. Broadcasters argue that would make the regime less than voluntary.

Another bill, from Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), is more to broadcasters' liking, also preventing any "involuntary" spectrum reclamation from broadcasters. The big question will be how "involuntary" is defined in the bills.

Neither the Boucher or Rockefeller bills have spectrum fees.

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