House and Senate Talks Stalled on Spectrum Bills

Stalled talks reduce chances for legislation this year

Negotiations between the House and Senate to resolve differences over spectrum bills that would free up spectrum for wireless services and public safety have stalled, reducing chances any spectrum legislation may pass this year.

"I'm disappointed that the House has unilaterally stopped negotiating with us on spectrum, but I'm not giving up," said Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which passed the Senate spectrum bill earlier this year. In a statement, Rockefeller, who sponsored the Senate bill with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex., still expressed hope that a compromise bill could be included in a final year-end package.

The spectrum bill passed Tuesday night in the House as part of a massive tax payroll tax bill is similar to the Senate version in many respects. Both bills would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to hold incentive auctions of spectrum voluntarily relinquished by TV broadcasters and both allocate a portion of spectrum to public safety.

But Senate Dems and House GOP are wide apart on how each bill would handle governance of the interoperable public safety networks. The Senate bill calls for a national governance model while the House bill relies on a regional model run by the states. Rockefeller called the nationwide interoperable network "one area I won't compromise."

House GOP is digging in on its side, too. "The House has worked its will. It's now up to the Senate. We've been talking with them, but we haven't seen much give. If they want heavy-duty national governance, then public safety may have to go," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., author of the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum Act or JOBS Act. "We're done."