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Auction delay remains in Bush budget

The Bush administration appears serious about delaying spectrum auctions and
levying analog spectrum fees on broadcasters.

The proposals remained in the official budget Bush sent to Capitol Hill
Monday. The administration would delay auctions of channels 60 through 69 from
2000 until 2004 and auction of channels 52 through 59 from 2002 until 2006.

'As a result of the increased certainty about how and when the spectrum in
channels 60 through 69 will become available for new entrants and shifting the
deadlines for both auctions closer to when the spectrum is expected to become
available, revenues for these auctions are expected to increase by $7.5
billion,' the budget says.

The administration also proposes charging broadcasters approximately $200
million per year for staying on their analog spectrum starting in 2002 and
continuing through 2006.

Finally, the administration plans to propose legislation that would authorize
the Federal Communications Commission to 'develop regulations that promote
clearing the spectrum in channels 60 through 69 [747 megahertz through 762 MHz
and 777 MHz through 792 MHz] for new wireless services in a manner that ensures
that incumbent broadcasters are fairly compensated,' the budget says.

Bush initially proposed the ideas -- with spectrum fees a holdover from the
Clinton administration -- when he sent his more informal budget 'blueprint' to
Congress in February.

Both the House and Senate already have approved the blueprint, and neither
house included either delays or fees. But Congress still has to work with the
official, more detailed version of the budget, so there will be another
opportunity for the administration to get the fees and delays inserted into
final bills.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget plans to send a legislative
proposal to Congress this month.