Spectrum incentive auctions proposal clears Senate committee

Wireless carriers and TV broadcasters--and by association the cable industry--were tuned in when the Senate Commerce Committee released its marked up version of a bill that authorizes incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum.

While the bill, which passed 21-4, allocates a valuable block of airwaves to public safety agencies and funds a nationwide network for first responders, the telecom community was more interested in its implications for broadcasters, mobile carriers and, in the end, cable operators because it encourages broadcasters to relinquish "unused" spectrum for wireless auctions. While the broadcasters would reap financial rewards from the auctions, there has been mixed reaction about participating.

Nevertheless, NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith reiterated his organization "will work with policymakers to help ensure that broadcasters are able to deliver on the promise of free and local digital television made to tens of millions of viewers."

Matt Polka, president-CEO of the American Cable Association was especially enthused about a feature of the bill that "will provide funding to compensate cable operators for all costs associated with carrying TV stations that share spectrum or are repacked."

The committee took a Swiss Army knife approach to marking up the bill which could, in turn, cause problems when it moves into wider legislative review.

For more:
- TVNewsCheck has this story

Related articles:
White House applies pressure for incentive spectrum auctions
As long as they're voluntary, Rep. Walden backs incentive auctions
Mobile-centric group backs spectrum reallocation legislation

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