Spectrum Auction Authority Delayed

WASHINGTON: Legislation authorizing TV spectrum incentive auctions is unlikely to pass this year. The Senate opted to cut it from a tax bill passed by the House last week, according to published reports. The authorization would have allowed the Federal Communications Commission to hold auction for spectrum voluntarily relinquished by broadcasters, and to split the proceeds with them. The commission can’t share auction revenue without specific authority from Congress.

The predominantly GOP House had included it in a controversial payroll tax extension bill that the Democratic-controlled Senate stripped down to a two-month stop-gap. The House bill also allocated the 700 MHz D-Block of spectrum for public safety--also stripped out of the version passed by the Senate Saturday.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) sponsored standalone spectrum legislation and supported the allocation of the D-Block. He said he was “deeply disappointed the that measures to create a first responder communications network were not included in the larger year-end package.”

Auction authority ended up in the House payroll tax bill as a pay-for, with an estimated $15 billion expected to go toward deficit reduction after broadcaster relocation and first-responder networks set-asides.

~ Deborah D. McAdams, Television Broadcast

See “House Passes Spectrum Auction Bill.