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House Dems Count 'Flaws' in Spectrum Bill

House Energy & Commerce Committee Democratic staffers have come up with their list of significant flaws in the Republican spectrum incentive auction bill that has been rolled into the end-of-the-year payroll tax holiday extension/unemployment benefits bill.

That includes setting aside up to $3 billion to compensate broadcasters -- and cable and satellite operators -- who remain in the business for any moving and repacking of stations after the spectrum reclamation. The Democrats argue that the Congressional Budget Office had indicated that figure should be $1 billion.

They say the flaws are how it sets up governance of the public safety network also created by the bill, its foreclosure of future unlicensed allocations from that spectrum, its limits on FCC auction conditions, its limits on conditions for new spectrum license holders, what they see as its underfunding of the public safety net, and the requirement that public safety return some of the narrowband spectrum it is currently using, and that $3 billion for moving expenses.

All those issues are criticisms that were leveled by Democrats in the markup of the stand-alone Republican version -- the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) in the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

It is unclear how many modifications may have to be made to the incentive auction portion of the jobs bill, or if it will remain part of the package.

The auction legislation was stripped out of the stop-gap bill that passed last August, and then was put into the president's jobs bill that did not pass last fall.

Ranking House E&C member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has said the condition preventing the FCC from putting network neutrality and wholesaling conditions on the deal would be a poison pill if it remained.