Originally published: May 12, 2011
Last updated: May 12, 2011 - 7:03pm
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) says he wants to get an incentive auction/emergency communications network bill passed by June, and certainly before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. But he also says broadcasters will not be forced off spectrum in the process.
The bill would pay for the creation, care and maintenance of a national, interoperable broadband emergency communications system with proceeds from an auction of spectrum, including broadcast spectrum. Congress has to give the Federal Communications Commission authority to compensate broadcasters and others -- Sen Rockefeller mentioned pager companies, for one -- for moving off and freeing up that spectrum. Broadcasters certainly want to be compensated if they give up spectrum, but the National Association of Broadcasters is concerned that the FCC's idea of voluntary is not theirs.
In a meeting with reporters to put an exclamation point on his ongoing calls for passage of the bill, Chairman Rockefeller was asked what support he had from broadcasters. "I have had good talks with [NAB President and former senate colleague] Gordon Smith about it," he said. "The word voluntary is very, very important to him." Language that says the spectrum reclamation must be voluntary is part of the Rockefeller bill. "Some broadcasters [will say] 'The government's going to move in and the FCC is going to move in and they are going to take away our spectrum. That's not going to happen." He said it will have to be voluntarily offered to the FCC. He added that: "Gordon Smith relaxes when he hears the word voluntary."
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