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Spectrum Auction Bill Markup Slated For Dec. 1

The House Communications Subcommittee has scheduled a Dec. 1 hearing to mark up (amend and likely vote on) the House version of a spectrum incentive auction bill, which has been christened the Jumpstarting Our Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) bill. The bill would compensate broadcasters for exiting spectrum, and cable operators for any technical adjustments they had to make to retransmit the newly repacked and shared channels.

"Spectrum legislation is a longstanding priority for both parties and a key element of our pro-jobs strategy, and it is now time for the Communications and Technology Subcommittee to vote on the long-awaited JOBS Act of 2011," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the subcommittee and himself a former broadcaster. "This legislation will create thousands of jobs, establish an interoperable public safety network, and reduce the deficit. The legislation and other specifics will be made available next week in advance of a markup to be scheduled for December 1."

Broadcasters have been working hard to insure that whatever bill emerges, it protects the coverage areas and signal quality of the broadcasters who choose to retain their spectrum and resolves border issues that could leave cities like Detroit and Buffalo with few over-the-air options.

Elsewhere Wednesday, public safety groups were pushing Congress to attach a Senate version of a spectrum incentive auction bill to any extension of the payroll tax holiday or unemployment benefits or an omnibus appropriations bill if any of those become must-pass legislation before year's end.

In the wake of the failure of the deficit-reduction committee to come up with legislation, which was expected to have included auction bill, the Public Safety Alliance said Wednesday that plan B should be for Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to schedule a floor vote on S. 911, the bill backed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. VA) that would give the FCC authority to compensate broadcasters for reclaiming spectrum to auction for wireless broadband, as well as allocating spectrum for an interoperable broadband public safety network. the alliance, which includes law enforcement and firefighter associations, has been pushing for allocation, rather than auctioning that public safety spectrum as many Republicans have backed.

They also wanted the House Energy & Commerce Committee to mark up a comparable House bill ASAP, so the Dec. 1 date will come as welcome news. "We are encouraged by our recent discussions with Members and staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee," said San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore in a statement. He said he believes the bill will be considered by the full committee before the end of the year. "We look forward to continuing those discussions and negotiations in the next few weeks."

For his part, Rockefeller has said he will continue to push for Senate passage of his bill.