Senate Commerce Defers 700 Mhz Amendment

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The Senate Commerce Committee deferred action on an amendment that would have reconfigured the 700 Mhz band so that it could be auctioned off in more geographically targeted chunks.

Chairman Ted Stevens pointed out that he supported the idea, and had even championed it in a DTV bill that had to be stripped of that and other issues to square with Senate rules.

But he also said that the auction had already been set for 2008 for the spectrum being reclaimed from broadcasters after the switch to digital, and that to try to reconfigure the band now would delay that auction and could change the value of the spectrum and put an additional burden on the committee for the money promised to the treasury.

Co-sponsor Olympic Snowe (R-Me.) argued that the Congressional Budget Office had already determined that reconfiguring would not lessen the value of the spectrum, which as currently constituted could be as much as $36 billion, said Stevens, and that it to leave it as is would allow large bidders to leave spectrum serving rural areas fallow as they built out urban areas.

If you want to get Boston, she said, you have to bid for New England.

As Snowe pressed her case, Stevens ire rose, saying the amendment could begin the unwinding of the auction.

Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) intervened to throw some water on the fire, asking the amendment be put aside and calling for further talks about the issue.

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