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House chairman says FCC shouldn’t force broadcasters to give up spectrum

The chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, Rep. Rick Boucher, D-VA, said the FCC should not force broadcasters to give up their spectrum — now or ever.

Speaking to the NAB at a leadership conference in Washington, D.C., the House chairman said the FCC is on the right track in not forcing a decision from broadcasters. “You would simply have an option you don’t have now and that is to sell some of the spectrum to the government, which would then auction it for other uses,” he said.

Boucher has co-sponsored a spectrum inventory bill, which passed his subcommittee. He predicted the full committee could mark it up as early as this week. “We are clearly going to need new spectrum in the near future,” Boucher said, “but the right first step is not to take spectrum from any particular source but to identify where spectrum is currently underutilized so that we have a blueprint for moving forward.”

After FCC chairman Julius Genachowski outlined the FCC’s voluntary proposal in a speech last week, the FCC’s broadband team indicated that a voluntary approach might have to be revisited if not enough broadcasters accept the deal.

This is where the FCC and Boucher differ. Both the FCC and Boucher agreed that finding new spectrum is a national priority.

More than 400 broadcasters gathered in Washington last week to meet with lawmakers on a host of public policy issues critical to their future.