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House Passes Spectrum Inventory Bill

The House by a vote of 394 to 18 Wednesday approved a spectrum inventory bill (H.R. 3125).

The bill, which was approved by a voice vote in the House Energy & Commerce Committee March 10, directs the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to figure out how and where private stakeholders are using their spectrum.

It had been originally scheduled to pass by unanimous consent earlier in the day, but failed. The bill also mandates the creation of a centralized Web portal/website for public access to the data, though the FCC and NTIA will report to Congress separately with information that could not be published for national security reasons.

The commission is looking to start the process of reclaiming spectrum from broadcasters and others this year as part of an aggressive rollout schedule for the national broadband plan. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the Communications & Internet Subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the bill, has said that a thorough inventory is necessary before the FCC can determine where and from whom it needs the spectrum, which it plans to auction for wired broadband use. He emphasized that again Wednesday.

To that end, the bill was amended to give the FCC four years to report to Congress on any relocation or spectrum-sharing plan stemming from that inventory, including "an explanation of the basis for that recommendation."

The FCC will have to move a lot faster than that if it is to justify the reallocation plan it already wants to start moving on in the next few months. The commission has already determined that it needs to get 120 MHz of spectrum back from broadcasters by 2015 as part of the national broadband plan. In its published agenda, the FCC has proposed a rulemaking on its voluntary incentive auctions for reclaiming spectrum by later this year and begin re-auctioning the broadcast spectrum as early as 2012.

A similar bill is S. 649, is teed up in the Senate.