The House Wednesday (Apr. 14) failed to approve a
spectrum inventory bill (H.R. 3125) by unanimous consent when at least one representative
did not go along.
The bill, which was approved by a voice vote in the House
Energy & Commerce Committee March 10, directs the FCC and the National
Telecommunications & Information Administration to figure out how and where
private stakeholders are using their spectrum. But the bill was tabled after a
member requested a voice vote.
That came after much saluting of the bill's bipartisan
nature, but a single holdout prevents the fast-track approach of unanimous
consent, which limits floor debate on the bill. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.)
was that holdout, having taken to the floor briefly to slam the Obama Administration
over jobs and say that the Congress was "ignoring the greatest spectrum
that the American people are demanding, and that's jobs."
The commission is looking to start the process of reclaiming
spectrum from broadcasters and others this year as part of an aggressive
rollout schedule for the national broadband plan.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the Communications
& Internet Subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the bill, has said that a
thorough inventory is necessary before the FCC can determine where and from
whom it needs the spectrum, which it plans to auction for wired broadband use.
To that end, the bill was amended to give the FCC four years
to report to Congress on any relocation or spectrum-sharing plan stemming from
that inventory, including "an explanation of the basis for that
If the bill does eventually pass, the FCC will have to move
a lot faster than that if it is to justify the reallocation plan it already
wants to start moving on in the next few months. The commission has already
determined that it needs to get 120 MHz of spectrum back from broadcasters by
2015 as part of the national broadband plan. In its published
agenda, the FCC has proposed a rulemaking on its voluntary incentive
auctions for reclaiming spectrum by later this year and to begin re-auctioning
the broadcast spectrum as early as 2012. A similar bill is S. 649,
is teed up in the Senate.
Boucher said again Wednesday that he did not support the FCC
forcing broadcasters off their band, and thought the inventory needed to come
before any spectrum clearing plan.