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Incentive Auction Bill Faces Lengthy Markup

The Senate Commerce Committee's
planned June 8 markup of an incentive auction bill could prove to be a marathon

According to copies of draft
amendments--there are nearly 100 of them--including 30 from Senator Jim DeMint
(R-SC) alone that move up dates, change language, strike sections and add

The bill (appropriately numbered
S. 911) would allow the FCC to compensate broadcasters for moving off some of
their spectrum--a projected 120 MHz--to make room for more wireless broadband.
It would also allow allocate the D block of spectrum to first responders for an
interoperable broadband emergency communications network rather than auction
it, as Congress originally designated.

Many Republicans, including
leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, would prefer that the
block still be allocated, which could prove an impediment to the swift passage
of the bill that its sponsor, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay
Rockefeller (D- W. Va.), had been pushing for.

Rockefeller wants the bill passed
and to the president before the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Creating the
emergency network was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

At a Hill hearing on the auctions
May 25, house Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and
Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) raised a number of
issues in suggesting that the problem with getting the network built might not
be about more spectrum or money.

They pointed out that, according
to the Congressional Research Service, some $13 billion in federal funds for
equipment had already gone to public safety since 2001 and about 100 MHz of
spectrum had been allocated, and no interoperable system had emerged