Rockefeller Preps Bill to Authorize Spectrum Payments

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) plans to introduce a bill to give the FCC authority to pay broadcasters to give up spectrum for wireless broadband, the legislator's office said Wednesday.

That follows the announcement Tuesday of a similar bill introduced by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Me.).

"This legislation will build on the policies in the recent Presidential Memorandum ‘Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution' by providing the Federal Communications Commission with the authority to hold incentive auctions," said Rockefeller in announcing the bill-in-progress. He was referring to the president's recent official show of support for the FCC's spectrum reclamation proposal.

"My legislation will help put this valuable resource into the hands of companies that can create innovative services for American consumers and businesses," he said. "This proposal will not require the return of spectrum from existing commercial users, but will instead provide them with a voluntary opportunity to realize a portion of auction revenues if they wish to facilitate putting spectrum to new and productive uses."

The Kerry/Snowe bill included a spectrum fee that would essentially tax broadcasters that remained on the spectrum. Rockefeller's office had not returned a call for comment at press time on whether he planned to include a spectrum fee in his bill.

Rockefeller said that in addition to the incentive auction authority, his bill, the Public Safety Spectrum Wireless Innovation Act, would set aside an additional 10 Mhz of spectrum for a national, interoperable public safety network, which the FCC has been trying to create for years.

The administration has given the commission until October to provide an inventory of who is using what spectrum.