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Thursday
Apr262012

Wireless Associations Cheer New Proposed Spectrum Legislation

The Efficient Use of Government Spectrum Act Could Boost Scope of Previous Legislation

If you are worried that the recent steps taken by the government to release more spectrum to the wireless broadband industry don’t go far enough to really solve the alleged spectrum crisis, the Efficient Use of Government Spectrum Act might be the legislation for you. AdWeek reported on April 26, 2012 that this bill, introduced by Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), might “take up the slack” if the previously-authorized incentive auctions don’t incent many broadcasters to relinquish their spectrum.  

The Efficient Use of Government Spectrum Act “would require the FCC to run a bigger auction by bundling broadcast spectrum with spectrum from the federal government used by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.” If passed, this bill would reallocate the 1755-1780 MHz band for commercial use and pair it with the 2155-2180 MHz band. This follows a separate announcement this week that Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) “launched a bipartisan federal spectrum working group to examine how the federal government can use the nation’s airwaves more efficiently.”

Wireless associations CTIA and RCA are pleased with the proposed legislation, and so is the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Why wouldn’t they be happy? Once the FCC creates its reverse-and-forward incentive auction process, the wireless carriers will be battling with each other over whatever little scraps of spectrum the broadcasters decide that they don’t want. At the NAB Show last week, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell expressed that he is not very optimistic about the amount of spectrum that might be relinquished by broadcasters. These auctions aren’t happening anytime soon, and the wireless industry has become extremely worried about having enough spectrum to meet consumers’ insatiable lust for smartphones and tablets.

In response to the proposed legislation, CTIA vp of government affairs Jot Carpenter commented that “Reallocation of the 1755 to 1780 MHz band is a high priority for CTIA and its members and so we welcome introduction of the Stearns-Matsui bill. We hope that this and other bands currently occupied but often underutilized by federal users will be made available for commercial use as expeditiously as possible.” RCA ceo Steven Berry concurred, stating that “This bill will benefit our economy and consumers while promoting competition and innovation throughout the wireless industry. Consumers deserve competitive options, and this bill is an important step toward providing usable spectrum to all carriers, so they can better serve their customers.”

CEA likewise praised the legislation. CEA president and ceo Gary Shapiro stated, “The 1755-1780 MHz band represents key spectrum that our nation’s innovators need to deploy robust mobile broadband networks for the benefit of all Americans. We commend Representatives Stearns and Matsui for introducing important legislation and urge quick passage by the full House.”

At this early stage, it is anyone’s guess if this legislation will pass. However, we can be sure that the wireless industry will continue to pressure the government to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband.