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Deficit Committee Members Seek More Government Spectrum

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), joined by two other members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction tasked with reducing the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion, have asked the president for help in freeing up more government spectrum for wireless broadband.

That is according to a copy of a letter to the White House dated Friday (Oct. 7). Also signing the letter were Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

While the bipartisan quartet from the bipartisan committee said they support voluntary incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum, which is intended to reclaim up to 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters (the president made those auctions part of his stalled jobs bill), they say more spectrum is needed. "[W]e believe that those auctions will not produce all the spectrum we need to meet our country's growing demand for broadband," they wrote.

The president and the FCC have set the goal of freeing up an additional 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless over the next decade, and the president made deploying wireless broadband to 98% of the country a national priority.

"In an effort to produce more spectrum for wireless broadband than in the current proposal, we respectfully request that you direct the Office of Management and Budget to re-examine and consider expanding a proposal in your FY 2012 Budget and in your recommendations submitted to the Committee for consideration on September 19, 2011, specifically, to make more efficient use of federal government spectrum and reallocate some of it for commercial broadband use," they said. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has already identified 115 MHZ of government spectrum that can be freed up).

But the legislators suggest there is more meat on that bone. "In particular, we should put every effort into making available paired, internationally-harmonized spectrum below 3 GHz in sufficient block sizes to support mobile broadband services within the next 10 years," they said.  They point out that auctions of spectrum "would generate tens of billions of dollars in auction proceeds, help the Select Committee meet its deficit reduction goals, stimulate billions in private-sector capital investment, provide a job-creating boost to the economy, and ensure that America continues to lead the world in wireless broadband innovation."

The legislators pointed to the DTV transition bill that freed up spectrum now being used for 4G wireless and said the country should build on that momentum.

They are "kindly requesting" an answer by Oct. 14.