Bill threatens 700-MHz auction, again

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The on-again/off-again 700-megahertz auction may be off again, sort of.

Despite a Federal Communications Commission ruling May 24 that would parcel
out the frequencies in two auctions by the end of the year, Congress is likely
to indefinitely postpone bidding for most channels now used for TV channels 52
through 69.

Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) are expected to broker
a deal with Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens that will require auctions to go
forward for only two of the five license blocks that have been carved out. One
of the blocks would give winners a 12-MHz swath of spectrum, the other 6
MHz.

Stevens has introduced legislation that would require the entire swath of
spectrum to be auctioned June 19, but his major interest is said to be helping
Alaska Native Wireless with its plan to roll out wireless service in rural areas
of his home state, as well as the lower 48.

The legislative deal, according to Capitol Hill sources, would be attached as
a rider to a noncontroversial bill.

The FCC has been under pressure to cancel the auction, which has been
postponed a half-dozen times already, but it has refused because current statute
requires that proceeds be deposited in the Treasury this
year.

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