Bush administration proposes user fees on unauctioned spectrum

The president’s 2007 Fiscal Year budget proposes the collection of user fees on unauctioned spectrum, including that used by television broadcasters. The proposal of user fees has become an annual government ritual, as has the campaigns of lobbyist to stop them.

Beginning in 2007, the administration said the fees would raise $3.6 billion over its first 10 years. The idea, of course, is not new. Broadcast lobbyists have fought in both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past decade and this year will no doubt be the same.

The administration also proposed cutting 13 percent from funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. At the same time, it would increase funding the Voice of America by 5.3 percent and the U.S. funded Middle East Broadcasting service by 13 percent, both ventures that the administration considers part of its war on terrorism.

Attempting to raise funds to reduce the federal deficit by 2009, the White House predicts the sale of wireless spectrum will generate about $25 billion between 2007 and 2009. That’s $7.8 billion higher than last year's estimate.

The FCC will begin by auctioning 90MHz of wireless airwaves on June 29, a sale that could generate as much as $15 billion for government coffers. That spectrum is expected to be used for mobile communications such as high-speed Internet and video services. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are expected to bid in the sale, Reuters reported.

The administration’s budget predicts that $9.95 billion from wireless auctions will be generated in the 2007 fiscal year, which starts October 1. It also expects almost $12.24 billion in the 2008 fiscal year that starts October 1, 2007. In the 2009 fiscal year, it expects to generate $2.87 billion.

By early 2008, the FCC is expected to begin auctions for spectrum being vacated by television broadcasters as they move to digital transmission. That spectrum will be vacated after February 17, 2009.

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