Skip to main content

Boucher: Finding More Wireless Spectrum Key Congressional Priority

Finding more spectrum for wireless broadband is one of the
House Communications & Internet Subcommittee's top priorities, according to
Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher.

Talking to the Congressional Internet Caucus' State of the
Net Conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday (Jan. 27), Boucher laid out his
legislative agenda for 2010, and spectrum reclamation or sharing led the list.

"The [spectrum] crunch will come soon," he said,
"and we're going to need new spectrum within a manner of just a few

Boucher noted that the committee reported out of the
subcommittee last week two bills requiring a comprehensive inventory by the FCC
and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration of
wireless spectrum.

He noted that last year, for the first time, the number of
homes with cell phones but without land lines exceeded those with landlines but
without cell phones. He said that disparity will continue, and that
applications will require "ever-greater data rates and bandwidth,"
particularly for mobile video.

Boucher said the inventory should provide the blueprint to
achieve that goal.

Boucher said another priority for the committee was
reforming the Universal Service Fund and expanding it to include broadband. He
said the committee's discussion draft has been supported by stakeholders on
both sides of the fund, contributors and beneficiaries alike. Those include AT&T,
Verizon, Qwest, Frontier, and rural carrier trade associations, bridging what
he said has been a classic divide between the two sides.

"I think that gives us the critical base of support
necessary to move this measure now through the House. Boucher said he hoped to
have a markup on the USF bill by February and March at the latest.

Other legislative priorities are passage of the satellitereauthorization bill and privacy legislation.

Boucher said the committee's oversight priorities include
next week's first of what he said he thought would be a total of four
congressional hearings on the Comcast/NBCU merger, which he called "one of
the largest media acquisitions proposed in American history."

Boucher said also there would be a hearing on the new
National Telecommunications & Information Association and Rural Utilities
Service bidding guidelines for broadband stimulus dollars, and an FCC oversight
hearing of the broadband plan after it is submitted (scheduled for March 17).