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Saturday, February 18, 2012
Congress Passes New Spectrum Bill

The Congress passed a legislation that includes language authorizing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold voluntary incentive spectrum auctions.

The legislation will allow the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to set aside a piece of unlicensed spectrum before new mobile spectrum auctions, despite opposition from some lawmakers who wanted all the available spectrum to be auctioned.

Unlicensed spectrum is used for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth services, and many technology companies have been eying unlicensed spectrum in current television spectrum for so-called long-distance super Wi-Fi service. The spectrum provisions in the payroll tax bill will allow the FCC to conduct so-called incentive auctions, which would give TV stations that voluntarily give up spectrum part of the proceeds from an auction.

The bill would also give a 10MHz block of spectrum -- the so-called D block in the 700Mhz band -- to public safety agencies for use in a nationwide mobile broadband network for police, firefighters and other emergency response agencies. The bill also provides an estimated US$7 billion from the proceeds of incentive auctions to build the nationwide network.

Tech and consumer groups praised Congress for allowing the FCC to set aside unlicensed spectrum before new auctions.

"Congress has taken a momentous step in advancing our nation's ability to innovate, create jobs of the future and meet the burgeoning needs of 21st century wireless networks," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. "These auctions will bring sorely needed revenue to the U.S. Treasury while handsomely rewarding broadcasters who choose to participate. Most important, this will help ensure our wireless broadband products have more usable spectrum and thus will increase the likelihood that the U.S. will remain the global leader of the Internet economy. We eagerly await the president signing this bill into law and working with the FCC on the rules surrounding the auctions."

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