FCC Given Four Years to Inventory Spectrum

House Energy & Commerce Committee passes spectrum inventory bill by voice vote

It looks like broadcasters could get more breathing room
from the specter of government spectrum band-clearing for mobile broadband.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday (March
10) passed the spectrum inventory bill by voice vote with an amendment that
lengthens from two to four years the time in which the FCC and the National
Telecommunications & Information Administration are required to make
recommendations to Congress about spectrum reallocation or sharing. As amended,
it also puts more emphasis on looking beyond the broadcast band to other

H.R. 3125, the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act, requires the
FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to
conduct an inventory of how spectrum is being used, by whom and how

House Communications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman
Rep. Rick Boucher, who co-sponsored the bill, said the new four-year time frame
was "in recognition that the agencies simply need time in order to perform
the complex evaluations that will undermine these evaluations."

The bill as originally introduced would have provided for a
wider spectrum inventory beyond 225 MHz-3.7 GHz only if its benefits justified
the extra cost. As amended, the FCC and NTIA would have to explain why the
benefit would outweigh the cost.

Boucher has said he expects the FCC to wait until that
inventory is completed to take any steps to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters,
which FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has signaled will be part of the national
broadband plan. 

The bill was also amended to give the National Security
Council a consultative role on determining what inventory information should
not be made public due to national security, and to recognize the importance of
spectrum for military uses.  The latter
is consistent with predictions that it could be tough to reclaim spectrum from
the military. That came after a letter from the Obama administration to the
committee this week with concerns about protecting sensitive information.

It would also allow agency heads to decide that disclosures
about private spectrum holders could be withheld.

Also passed by voice vote was a companion bill, HR 3019,
which requires the NTIA to come up with a transition plan for future spectrum
band-clearing auctions. That follows problems with government users failing to
clear out in a timely fashion after the government had collected billions from
private users for the spectrum.

The markup also included passage of a bill to allow the FCC
to prohibit caller ID spoofing, in which callers mask their numbers or appear
to be calling from another number.

The spectrum bills, which Energy & Commerce Committee
Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said are among the most important coming out
of the committee this year, now head to the floor for a vote.