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Senators introduce federal spectrum relocation bill

Sens. Mark R. Warner, D-VA, and Roger Wicker, R-MS, have introduced legislation that would make the spectrum relocation process more transparent by requiring federal agencies to share more information about their transition plans at the outset of the process.

The proposed bipartisan bill also creates a technical review panel to assist agencies in developing efficient relocation plans and timelines, provides for spectrum sharing during the transition and proposes other measures to encourage better federal disclosure. This would provide interested parties with greater certainty about the availability of future spectrum resources.

The government is pressuring broadcasters and other federal and commercial users to share or give up some of their spectrum. It wants to reclaim the spectrum for auctioning to wireless broadband companies.

“Demand for mobile devices and services are expected to skyrocket over the next five to 10 years,” Warner said. “This bill is one element of our strategy to make better use of spectrum — a finite resource — and keep America on the cutting edge of wireless technology. The Spectrum Relocation and Improvement Act will better promote infrastructure investment and broadband deployment.”

“Access to more commercial spectrum remains critical to economic growth and job creation,” Wicker said. “This bipartisan legislation would help better coordinate the involvement of federal agencies and commercial carriers in future spectrum auctions, removing unnecessary burdens on this important resource. With a more effective and efficient federal relocation process, our communities will more quickly benefit from further wireless development.”

Wicker and Warner cited the 2006 advanced wireless services auction, during which the FCC raised almost $14 billion by auctioning federal spectrum. However, problems affecting two of 12 relocating agencies delayed build out and deployment timetables for all carriers.

The legislation is designed to streamline the process as the government starts auctioning news blocks of spectrum for wireless broadband to head off what the sponsors argue is a looming spectrum crisis.