Upton: Spectrum Bill 'Likely' To Include Incentive Auctions

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House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Wednesday that finding more spectrum to auction for broadband use will be "priority."

He also said that it will "likely include voluntary incentive auctions," which will require Congress to authorize paying broadcasters and others to give up their spectrum.

Upton's comment came after reports that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said Wednesday in remarks at the Brookings Institution that he was hopeful, but not positive, Congress would come through with that authority.

Upton positions the auctions as a jobs and economic stimulus move, two more priorities for legislators, Democratic and Republican. "Our efforts on spectrum will not only promote broadband, but jumpstart the economy, create jobs, and generate significant revenue for American taxpayers," he said.

A spokesman for the FCC chairman confirmed that Genachowski had made the comment, but suggested that was because nothing is a slam-dunk in the world of politics rather than a change in his assessment of passage.

"[The chairman] sees a spectrum crunch and is confident members of Congress will recognize that and pass legislation that allows for it," said the spokesman.

The chairman has been putting an exclamation point on the need for more spectrum, including the authority for incentive auctions so the FCC can proceed with its broadband plan of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband in 10 years and 300 within five years.

In a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, the chairman pitched expedient action on legislation, praising CEA for its letter to Congress backing incentive auctions.

Genachowski said the incentive auction would allow for a mechanism to "unleash the value of that spectrum for broadband." He said given that pressing need, "how can we justify shielding broadcast spectrum from market forces?"

Calling for Congress to take action, he said: "It's time to take the necessary steps to ensure that spectrum will be the great enabler of mobile innovation in the 21st century, not a chokepoint."

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