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Jobs Bill Authorizes Incentive Auctions

As expected, the new jobs bill sent to Congress by the White House Monday contains spectrum auction authority for the FCC to compensate broadcasters who give up spectrum, and authority for the government to compensate broadcasters left behind for any relocation or channel sharing, and multichannel video providers for their costs of accommodating those moves.

The bill would authorize spectrum fees, though it would exempt TV broadcasters, and require the FCC to recover the cost of allowing satellite spectrum users to employ that spectrum for terrestrial broadband.

The White House had signaled last week that the auctions and the national interoperable broadband communications network that the auction proceeds would also fund, would be part of the package and were key both to getting that network, one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, advancing the rollout of wireless broadband. The FCC is looking for wireless companies to bid on the spectrum to relieve what the FCC and those companies say is a coming spectrum crunch, and to raise some revenues for the treasury.

The bill allocates the D block of spectrum, as Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) have proposed. The language is essentially that bill added to the jobs package.

The bill would require the FCC to be compensated, including via user fees, for allowing users of satellite spectrum to repurpose it for terrestrial broadband, which would appear to mean companies like LightSquared and DISH. LightSquared has already gotten a waiver to do so-pending resolution of GPS interference issues--and DISH is asking for one.

"I am pleased to see that President Obama's jobs plan includes proposals to invest in the wireless economy and provide first responders with the communications tools they need to do their jobs safely and effectively," Rockefeller said in a statement.

"Investment in this sector can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, help first responders and generate billions of dollars for deficit reduction.  It's a win-win-win proposal.  And I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this happen."

"While we are reviewing the proposed legislation with our members, CTIA appreciates the Administration's continued support for spectrum auctions," said CTIA: The Wireless Association. "Bringing additional spectrum to auction expeditiously is critical to efforts to address wireless consumers' demand for mobile broadband service, just as it is key to spurring additional investment, innovation and job creation across the wireless ecosystem. We urge Congress to act swiftly to authorize incentive auctions and to repurpose a significant portion of the sub-3 gigahertz bands currently occupied by federal users."

"We applaud the president for including wireless incentive auction authorization for the FCC in the American Jobs Act," said Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro. "By incentivizing broadcasters to return underutilized spectrum, our nation can solve our wireless spectrum shortage, create jobs and raise billions of dollars to help address the ballooning deficit. Incentive spectrum auctions will alleviate slow wireless broadband, help revitalize our economy and allow a win-win for all Americans."