Rockefeller pushes spectrum bill forward

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) this week at a press conference in Washington, D.C., announced his desire to pass the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

Rockefeller was joined at the press conference by co-sponsors of the legislation, including Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), to drum up support for the bill, which would reserve a portion of spectrum for an interoperable communications system for first responders and give the Federal Communications Commission authority to conduct voluntary incentive auctions to clear TV spectrum for future broadband Internet use.

In a statement posted on the association’s website, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith commended the efforts of Rockefeller and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) “to address broadcaster concerns with voluntary incentive auctions.”

In its National Broadband Plan, the FCC proposed conducting voluntary incentive auctions from which broadcasters choosing to participate would share in the portion of proceeds generated by auctioning their spectrum to telecom companies to meet future wireless broadband Internet demand. However, the agency currently does not have Congressional authority to hold incentive auctions.

According to a report in the National Journal, Rockefeller plans to mark up the bill next week. However, despite reportedly being confident in garnering strong support for the bill, Rockefeller has expressed concern that it might hit a snag in the Senate from a single senator who objects.

Regardless of whether the bill passes in the Senate, the legislation faces an uncertain future in the House of Representative, according to reports. Some powerful Republican members of the House have favored auctioning off the spectrum the Senate bill would set aside for first responders.

In its announcement regarding the legislation, the NAB said it would work to ensure “the interests of viewers are protected” as it advances towards passage.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.