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Public Knowledge Skewers GOP Spectrum Bill Draft

Public Knowledge has a big problem with a House Republican discussion draft of a spectrum incentive auction bill.

The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

"Until now, communications law has never been publicly put up for sale. This draft bill would do that by allowing broadcasters to choose which rules they will follow and which rules they won't if they sell their broadcast spectrum at auction," said Feld. "Similarly, wireless companies would be relieved of even the most minimal existing Net Neutrality requirements if they purchase spectrum under these auctions.

"Finally, the innovation and experimentation we have seen through the use of unlicensed spectrum would screech to a grinding halt. Rather than have the FCC decide how much spectrum would be used for unlicensed uses, the draft bill would require a collective bid for unlicensed spectrum higher than bids for licensed uses. Given that unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi come from small and new companies, the future of new uses would be very bleak."

The discussion draft was circulated by House Communications Subcommittee majority members Wednesday in advance of a July 15 hearing on the issue. They said the draft was not set in stone.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance also has issues with the draft and its treatment of unlicensed wireless.

"We are carefully reviewing the staff draft, as are all stakeholders," said the group in a statement. " Our position remains that our nation's spectrum policy must support the expansion of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and allow the FCC, as the expert agency, to have the necessary flexibility to make well-founded spectrum decisions.  At first blush it does not appear that this draft advances that spectrum policy. In particular, by proposing to auction all unlicensed spectrum, the draft would undermine future economic growth, and hamper the development of new and innovative unlicensed products and services.

Alliance members include Google, Microsoft and Dell, as well as Public Knowledge.