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Kerry, Snowe Intro Spectrum Inventory and Incentive Auction Bill

WASHINGTON: A bi-partisan bill ordering a spectrum inventory and authorizing TV spectrum incentive auctions was rolled out this week in the Senate. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), included both in their “Reforming Airwaves by Developing Incentives and Opportunistic Sharing,” or RADIOS Act.

“Incentive auctions as proposed in the National Broadband Plan and the Initiative are commendable, but must be part of a more comprehensive approach by also promoting technological innovation and providing for a more robust management system,” the two said in a joint statement.

Incentive auctions in the broadband plan are intended to encourage broadcasters to turn over spectrum for wireless broadband. The RADIOS bill is said to be a “modified version” of legislation previously introduced by the pair. Both sponsored an incentive auction bill last year, and an inventory bill in 2009. RADIOS orders the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to conduct a comprehensive spectrum inventory and surveys to determine existing uses.

“Such data would provide a more detailed and up-to-date understanding of how spectrum is currently being used and by whom--data essential to sound policy decisions and spectrum management,” they said. “In addition, the legislation requires greater collaboration between the FCC and NTIA on spectrum policy and management-related issues, implementation of spectrum sharing and reuse programs, as well as more market-based incentives to promote efficient spectrum use.”

The legislation also calls for a cost-benefit analysis of relocating incumbent users and notes that legacy wireless services could be made more efficient with new technology. It additionally allows for establishing femtocell Wi-Fi hot spots “in all publicly accessible federal buildings as well as streamline federal rights-of-way and wireless tower sitings on federal buildings.” Doing so would provide additional broadband coverage at minimal costs to taxpayers, the two reasoned.

“The analysis this legislation demands will help drive innovation, encourage competition, and create jobs, all while lowering prices for consumers in Massachusetts and across the country,” Kerry said.

Snowe noted the growth in wireless applications and use, and said the “government’s current spectrum management framework is inefficient and has not kept up with technological advancements to ensure providers have the necessary wireless capacity to meet growing demand for this finite resource.”

-- Deborah D. McAdams