CASH FOR SPECTRUM

No Hill Auction Action Until At Least 2012

On Saturday, the Senate adopted a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that does not include any incentive spectrum auction provisions. And the House is expected to pass the same bill next week.

Congress has punted any action on spectrum auction legislation until early next year.

Key House Republicans  and Senate Democrats failed to hammer out an agreement this week on a spectrum measure that would have cleared the way for the FCC to conduct incentive auctions of  TV spectrum.

If the lawmakers had reached a consensus, it was anticipated that incentive auction provisions would be part of the must-pass  legislative package  to extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits.

Instead, on Saturday the Senate adopted a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that does not include any incentive auction provisions. And the House is expected to pass the same bill next week.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) released a statement expressing his disappointment that the spectrum auction measure did not move forward.

Rockefeller is the author of S.911, which authorizes the FCC to hold incentive auctions of TV spectrum and share the proceeds of those auctions with broadcasters that voluntarily give up their spectrum.

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However, he promised to “push hard in the coming weeks to work out a suitable compromise with the House.”

Rockefeller and House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) were trying to iron out major  differences over  certain provisions  in an incentive auction proposal attached to the  payroll — tax package adopted by the House earlier in the week.

The major source of disagreement is over the House language dealing with the governance and funding of the national broadband public safety network that would be established under the bill.

Walden is the author of the House incentive auction proposal  that also contains significant protections for local TV broadcasters that chose not to relinquish their spectrum.

The National Association of Broadcasters is backing the Walden bill.

“We are not opposed to spectrum auctions that are truly voluntary, so long as non-volunteer stations and the tens of millions of viewers that they serve are held harmless,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said in a statement Saturday. “We believe the Walden bill in the House accomplishes that.’’

Hill action on the incentive auction proposal is expected to heat back up in February when the two-month payroll tax extension expires.

House Republicans want the incentive auction language attached to the payroll-tax bill because they claim that revenues from the auctions would help reduce the federal deficit by $15 billion over 10 years.


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