White House Super Committee Proposal Includes Spectrum Auction Plan

By Marc Martin and Marty Stern

The White House released its economic growth and deficit reduction proposal yesterday, which contains provisions for “incentive auctions” that were included as part of the American Jobs Act announced by President Obama last week. The proposal was part of the President’s recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the so-called “Super Committee,” which has been tasked under the Budget Control Act with finding reportedly $1.5 trillion in long-term deficit reduction measures by late November. As we noted in our previous post regarding the Jobs Bill, incentive auctions would allow broadcast spectrum licensees to give up portions of their spectrum for auction by the FCC in return for a portion of the auction revenue. The FCC would then use the additional auction revenue to fund the creation of a nationwide, interoperable wireless network dedicated to public safety, with the remainder going towards deficit reduction. The plan projects revenue of approximately $24 billion from the incentive auctions, with $7 billion in auction proceeds and additional spectrum valued at $3 billion being used for the new public safety network. In addition, the FCC would be directed to collect $4.8 billion in spectrum licensing fees over the next ten years.

The incentive auction/public safety spectrum recommendation contained in the growth and deficit reduction plan, as with the Jobs Bill, is modeled on legislation introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX),which has faced stiff opposition from House Republicans over the past year. As has been expected, the Super Committee approach provides yet another vehicle for the Obama Administration to press for incentive auction legislation, with the version in the American Jobs Act already introduced in the House and Senate. As with the Jobs Bill offered last week, the President’s growth and deficit reduction recommendationsare silent on preserving unassigned spectrum for unlicensed use, including TV White Spaces (i.e., unassigned broadcast spectrum being developed for new "Super WiFi" broadband applications). As we noted in our Jobs Bill post, this has raised concerns from tech quarters that had been largely aligned with the Administration on spectrum policy issues.

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