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House Commerce Committee passes delay bill

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday quickly and unanimously
approved of a bill that would indefinitely delay the Federal Communications
Commission's auction of the 700-megahertz spectrum, which is used by
broadcasters on channels 52 through 59 and 60 through 69.

The FCC is scheduled to auction that spectrum in June, and still intends to
hold the auctions, even though the Bush Administration and the House Commerce
Committee are pushing hard for a delay.

Late Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans sent a letter to Committee
Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) supporting the bill.

"The Administration believes that, until more certainty exists about the
means for and timing of clearing this spectrum, an auction of the Upper and
Lower 700-megahertz bands would be premature and contrary to the public
interest," Evans wrote.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) was the only member of the committee to oppose
the bill, although he did not vote against it.

Stearns represents a Florida district, and Paxson Communications Corp. is
headquartered in Florida.

Paxson is pushing hard to hold the auction because it stands to make millions
of dollars in payoffs from wireless and other companies who want TV stations to
clear the spectrum as soon as possible.