Boucher: Broadband Plan Should Not Force Broadcasters Off Spectrum
Rep. doesn't want FCC proceeding with reclamation until available spectrum is identified
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/14/2010 1:51:09 PM
He also doesn't want the commission proceeding with its voluntary spectrum reclamation plan before it has identified where the spectrum is available and from whom it should come, and reported that information to Congress, a process that could take several years.
Although the House failed to pass a spectrum inventory bill (HR 3125) via unanimous consent Wednesday (Apr. 14) after a Republican member made it less than unanimous, Boucher still got to make his point, which came even as broadcasters are pondering their spectrum fate at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.
"It would not be an appropriate step to require that broadcasters engage in the surrender of any part of the spectrum they hold," Boucher said on the House floor.
Blackburn asked Boucher his views on how the FCC should proceed on its recommendations in the national broadband plan, which include an order by next year on reclaiming 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters via voluntary auctions, in light of the spectrum bill, which anticipates a several-year-long process in first identifying what spectrum may be available.
"There is not doubt that more spectrum is needed in order to meet the nation's rising demand for wireless services," said Boucher," but he also said that "conducting the spectrum inventory that this legislation requires is an essential first step," and a "clear roadmap." Blackburn said she heartily agreed.
As to the spectrum being sought from broadcasters in particular, she pointed to the plans assertion of a voluntary program but said that it "hints that other, presumably involuntary methods, of relocating broadcast stations may be necessary." She asked him whether he supported such involuntary methods.
Boucher was happy to oblige: "I agree that the right approach is to work with television broadcasters to identify the spectrum they now hold that, on a purely consensual basis, could be repurposed wireless use."
Boucher is not suggesting new spectrum is not needed. He has repeatedly acknowledged the need and desirability of freeing up spectrum for wireless broadband use, including from broadcasters if it is freely given, and did so again Wednesday.
But he used the House floor time to reiterate that it must be voluntary, period. "Broadcasters who surrender spectrum would receive compensation for a voluntary spectrum transfer. I would not support the commission's requiring stations to give up spectrum involuntarily."
Congress will have to approve the FCC's reclamation plan, since it involves auctions where some of the proceeds would go to industry, rather than the government.
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