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Broadband Plan: Spectrum Fees Could Be Extra Band-Clearing Incentive

The FCC will propose levying spectrum fees on broadcasters
and government users alike as a little incentive to clear off some of their

According to a copy of the March 12 Hill briefing of the
national broadband plan, under the summary of recommendations are two to
"expand incentives and mechanisms available to reallocate or repurpose

One is an auction; the other is "spectrum fees." The
FCC has said it planned to pay broadcasters to voluntarily clear off their
spectrum, which would be auctioned for wireless broadband.

But it also will recommend levying fees on broadcasters who
choose not to take the buyout, which could prove another government prod in
that voluntary program to give it up. "That would not be inconsistent with
the language in the plan," said someone who had seen it.

"The recommendation is that Congress should grant
authority on the FCC to impose spectrum fees on license holders, and NTIA to
impose fees on users of government spectrum," said the source, reading
from the plan.  "The point being
that this may help to free spectrum," the source added.

It was not clear whether that was more directed to
broadcasters, or some of the other licensees whose spectrum may be in the

The spectrum portion of the plan also talks about "new
unlicensed" and "opportunistic uses" of the spectrum.

A spokesman for the broadband plan was not available for
comment at press time.

Spectrum fees crop up routinely in administration budgets
and are as routinely excised by Congress, but the plan could provide added

The plan, which is being officially released next
week, calls for reclaiming 500 MHZ from broadcasting and other users
within 10 years.