Supercommittee Members Want Feds to Sell Their Spectrum

Congressmen worried selling only broadcast spectrum won't be enough

Maybe it's finally dawned on Congress that TV broadcasters may not be all that anxious to hand over their spectrum to be auctioned off, leaving the wireless industry without the spectrum it needs to meet growing demand. That seemed to be the premise of a letter four members of the "supercommittee" charged with coming up with ways to reduce the federal deficit sent to President Obama, asking him to free some of the spectrum owned by the government up for sale.

The letter—written by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.—asks Obama to direct the Office of Management and Budget to re-examine a proposal in his 2012 budget "to make more efficient use of federal government spectrum and reallocate some of it for commercial broadband use."

Up until now, most of Washington has been focused on TV broadcast spectrum as a way to solve the nation's growing demand for wireless spectrum, and broadcasters have generally gone alone with the idea,  as long as the decision to give up spectrum would remain truly voluntary. But that may not be enough, the four congressmen wrote.

"We certainly support… voluntary incentive auctions," they said. "But we believe that those auctions will not produce all the spectrum we need to meet our country's growing broadband needs."

Though Congress has been trying to pass a bill authorizing spectrum auctions, those efforts have stalled, and now it will be hard for the supercommittee to resist taking the issue up itself and being able to factor the potential revenue from such auctions in to its proposal. "Spectrum auctions would generate tens of billions of dollars in auction proceeds," the supercommittee members noted in their letter. 

The letter requests a response from Obama by Oct. 14. Le

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