Bipartisan spectrum bill protects television airspace rights


The bipartisan leaders of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet have introduced a bill that would allow the FCC to free up for wireless broadband spectrum through incentive auctions – and also underscores the right of television broadcasters to hang on to their slice of spectrum. The bill was immediately praised by key broadcast organizations NAB and MSTV.

The legislators responsible for the bill, Voluntary Incentive Auctions Act of 2010, are subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Ranking Member Cliff Stearns (R-FL).

The bill would allow broadcasters who opt in to the auctions to share in their proceeds. Importantly, it also protects the broadcaster’s right to opt out.

Boucher observed, “The Voluntary Incentive Auctions Act takes the right approach to incentive-based spectrum auctions — enter into conversations with broadcasters and others about surrendering a portion of their spectrum on a voluntary basis, determine rules for incentive-based auctions that are truly voluntary and conduct the auctions in accordance with the agreement.”

Stearns added “The Voluntary Incentive Auctions Act of 2010 is a positive step toward this goal. It is important to stress that any incentive auctions conducted by the FCC are truly voluntary. No spectrum licensee, whether a broadcaster or wireless provider, should be forced to give up the spectrum they currently hold.”

NAB’s Dennis Wharton hailed the bill, saying, “NAB salutes Chairman Boucher and Ranking Member Stearns for their vision on an issue of vital importance to tens of millions of Americans who rely on local TV stations for high-quality entertainment, niche programming and lifeline emergency news and information. As NAB has previously articulated, we have no quarrel with incentive auctions that are truly voluntary, and the Boucher/Stearns bill is a clear step in the right direction. We look forward to working with Congress as it lays the foundation for sound spectrum policy that recognizes the enduring value of free and local broadcasting.”

MSTV’s David Donovan also weighed in, saying, “MSTV supports this legislative approach. Chairman Boucher and Rep. Stearns have struck the proper public interest balance by providing a truly voluntary mechanism for those stations that may wish to surrender spectrum. This approach recognizes the importance of free, over-the-air digital television to American consumers.”