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House Members Debate Spectrum Bill

House Democrats and Republicans took to the House floor to weigh in on spectrum incentive auction legislation during the debate on HR 3630 Tuesday, the GOP legislative package that rolled an oil pipeline and Republican version of the spectrum bill into must-pass legislation like extending unemployment benefits and extending a payroll tax holiday.

That was in advance of what was expected to be House passage of the bill. The White House has pledged to veto it in the unlikely event it then passed the Democrat-controlled Senate.

House Communications Subcommittee Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who was the driving force behind the GOP version of the spectrum bill that was attached essentially intact into the larger bill, said that bill would create between 300,000 and 700,000 jobs while making spectrum available for broadband and a national interoperable emergency communications network available to first responders. He said the take for the treasury from the auction of spectrum would be "upwards" of $16 billion.

"This unleashes spectrum, licensed and unlicensed, and if put into service will unleash new technology and new innnovations, and the chairman of the FCC has said that this portion of the bill we're debating today could create as many as 700,000 jobs." He said the bill was the balanced result of 11 monhts of talks and negotiations with all sides and following five hearing. "At some point the American people say 'stop talking; get it done.'"

On the other side, House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said that the incentive auction has too many shortcomings, including funding levels for that public safety net and the absence of open Internet safeguards. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), added that the Republican bill's prohibition on the allocation of any more of the reclaimed broadcast spectrum for unlicensed wireless was foolhardy, that she was concerned about the way that the public safety network was overseen, and said that while the bill gives with one hand -- allocating the public safety spectrum rather than allocating it -- it takes away with the other. The bill requires public safety to eventually relinquish the spectrum it currently uses for voice communications.

She also said that creation of 50 state networks rather than one national one would not lead to interoperability.

Finally, she said, the bill would restrict the FCC from preserving competition and would not preserve an open Internet. She put in a plug for a Senate version of the spectrum auction bill, S. 911.