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Rockefeller: House Has Stopped Negotiating on Spectrum Bill

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) said Wednesday that the House has "stopped negotiating" with the committee on a compromise spectrum bill, while he is still willing to be at the table.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Communications Committee and the driving force behind the Republican-backed  version of spectrum legislation, countered that the version that passed the House as part of the payroll tax holiday extension bill Tuesday is the one the Senate will need to vote on.

That  version of that bill has been labeled a nonstarter in the Senate because of the way it structures oversight of the public safety network and prohibitions on open Internet and wholesaling conditions on the spectrum freed up for auction due to the payments the bill authorizes the FCC to make to broadcasters.

"I'm disappointed that the House has unilaterally stopped negotiating with us on spectrum, but I'm not giving up," he said. "It's my hope that we can include a compromise in the final year-end package. Although I don't care to negotiate this publicly, we remain open to any good idea. One area I won't compromise on though is the urgency of building a nationwide interoperable network for our first responders and the public safety community. It's a bipartisan idea, a national priority and a plan well within our reach.  Frankly, the rest of the spectrum debate is secondary to the needs of our firefighters, cops and emergency workers."

Rockefeller's version of spectrum auction legislation, which passed out of his committee, is similar, but does not have net neutrality conditions, limits on how the FCC can structure the bidding, and other Republican elements labeled poison pills.

The president has promised to veto the payroll tax bill unless compromises are made.

Walden signaled Wednesday that the House-passed version was the one the Senate needed to vote on. He has pointed out that the bill was already a product of negotiation and compromise. That includes allocating spectrum for that emergency network (as Rockefeller's bill called for) rather than auctioning it, as he would have preferred and the FCC had backed.

"The House yesterday passed spectrum legislation that pays down the deficit, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, and delivers a nationwide interoperable network for public safety," Walden told B&C in an e-mailed statement. "We look forward to the Senate taking their turn to act on these important priorities for all Americans."