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NTIA Chief: Administration To Offer Bill To Get Some Upfront Money For Government Spectrum Movers/Shakers

National Telecommunications & Information Administration chief Larry Strickling said this week that the administration will offer a bill in the next Congress to provide dough for federal spectrum holders being eyed to give up or reduce their holdings. "They would be greatly aided if they had resources to do upfront planning and R&D if necessary to be able to particpate more fruitfully in this reallocation and relocation."

That was according to a preview of an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series. NTIA is the Obama administration's chief telecom advisory arm, under the Department of Commerce.

Strickling said Thursday that if a bill does not pass giving the FCC the authority to pay broadcasters to clear off spectrum, using proceeds from an auction of their spectrum, "it will certainly slow things down." "Things" in this case is freeing up 500 Mhz over the next ten years from private and government users for wireless broadband. He said that the FCC believes it has to have the that authority if it is to reclaim its targetted 120 Mhz from broadcasters if it is to reallocate "as robustly as it would like to." The FCC oversees private users like broadcasters, while NTIA oversees government use; they coordinate on shared spectrum, and are coordinating on the joint effort to reclain it.

While it should be comforting for federal spectrum holders like the Defense Department that they will get even more money, one thing that has troubled broadcasters is that it is unclear to them when -- not to mention "if" --they will be getting paid.

NTIA this week announced its plan to reclaim 115 Mhz in the short term from, among others, DOD, as well as a longer-term plan toward reaching that 500 Mhz benchmark.

Strickling said they would need that spectrum, but that industry would need to step up with ways to make whatever spectrum they do get more efficient. Broadcasters are already doing that, using the DTV spectrum allocation for multiple channels in some markets. 

Strickling had no ballpark figure on what kind of money broadcasters and government users will get, saying it was "really up to Congress, adding "right now we don't have an administration position on what that right balance ought to be." He said the government requests would be "fairly modest" sums for equipent and planning.

He also had no comment whether broadcasters are on board with the plan. Broadcasters have expressed a willingness to be a part of a voluntary program, but that would depend on the definition of voluntary. They have also said they want to be, and believe they should be, a part of the broadband future, given the greater efficiencies of one-to-many connections over the cellular industry's one-to-one model, they argue.