Tauzin introduces bill to delay spectrum auctions

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House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and that
committee's ranking member, John Dingell (D-Mich.), introduced legislation
Wednesday that would require the Federal Communications Commission to
indefinitely delay auctions of the 700-megahertz spectrum band scheduled for
June.

'I believe this legislation should not be necessary to preclude the commission
from conducting the auctions in June,' Tauzin said. 'The FCC currently
has the authority to delay these auctions, and it should do so.'

The legislation has no Senate sponsor yet, but FCC chairman Michael
Powell has said the law requires the agency to proceed without some clear guidance from
Congress.

Observers expect pressure from Tauzin and his committee, as
well as pressure from the Bush administration, to convince the commission to step back.

A total of 52 members of the Commerce Committee co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill leaves in place the 2006 deadline for returning the analog spectrum,
however.

Andy Levin, minority counsel to the House
Commerce Committee, told a conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 'Congress determined that
deadline was asinine, made no sense and results in a gross mismanagement of
spectrum.'

Still, the '2006 deadline is the framework under which we all have to work,'
said Jessica Wallace, majority counsel to the committee.

According to law, broadcasters must convert to digital and give back the
analog spectrum by 2006, but only if 85 percent of households have access to
digital television.

Even though the transition to digital seems slow, and
nearly 900 broadcasters have asked for at least an extra six months to convert
their stations, the Consumer Electronics Association said business is booming in
the digital-TV marketplace.

In the first quarter, consumers purchased nearly $767 million in integrated
digital-TV sets and displays alone, a 66 percent increase over the same period
in 2001.

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