House Democrats Urge Postponement of Walden Spectrum Bill Vote
WASHINGTON: House Democrats are asking for a postponement of tomorrow’s
subcommittee vote on a spectrum bill proffered Tuesday by their Republican
colleague. California Democrats Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo sent a letter today
to the leadership of the House Commerce Committee asking for the delay. The
pair also released a spectrum bill yesterday, just hours after the one from
Walden, who scheduled the vote.
We are writing you to
request that you postpone the subcommittee markup scheduled for Thursday, Dec.
1,” they wrote in a letter to Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg
Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the technology subcommittee and chief author of
the contested legislation. “We make this request for two reasons. First,
Chairman Walden released new legislative text on Tuesday, so a delay will give
members and stakeholders more time to understand the new language. Second, we
were engaged in constructive negotiations toward a bipartisan bill that were abruptly
ended in early October. A delay would provide an opportunity for us to resume
these negotiations and to share relevant information we have learned since
Walden’s bill, the
Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum Act, authorizes the Federal
Communications Commission to hold incentive auctions of voluntarily
relinquished TV spectrum. It would raise an estimated $15 billion for deficit
reduction and provide $3 billion for repacking TV channels. It also allocates a
20 MHz block of contiguous spectrum for a public safety broadband network,
including the 700 MHz D block that failed to attract minimum bids as a
public-private license four years ago.
Walden and Upton favored auctioning the D block, but Walden’s bill cedes to
outright allocation. Waxman and Eshoo concurred on the D block, but took issue
with other points in the bill. It provides no set-aside for unlicensed spectrum
the TV bands, which Democrats favor. Walden’s bill puts state governments in
charge of building the public safety network, and grants deployment and
oversight to a private contractor. Democrats favor the formation of a national
nonprofit and have dubiety about the cost and accountability of using a private
contractor for oversight.
They also questioned the $3 billion channel-repacking fund, and the amount
dedicated to create the public safety network.
“This is three times larger than the amount CBO has advised would be necessary
to cover broadcasters’ reasonable expenses,” they said. “We do not understand
why this broadcaster fund is so generous, especially when the new language
provides just $5 billion for building the new public safety network, which is
less than half the funds provided in the bipartisan Senate legislation and our
Walden said yesterday that his bill was the culmination of five hearings and
multiple bipartisan meetings. Eshoo and Waxman said committee Republicans
stopped negotiating with Democrats over the spectrum bill in early October to
“pursue discussions in the Super Committee.” The Democrats in the meantime said
they’d learned “new facts” and wanted to hammer out a bipartisan deal.
~ Deborah D. McAdams