Efforts to spur the transfer of spectrum from government agencies to commercial wireless carriers advanced Wednesday when a House subcommittee approved a bill backed by the Department of Defense and the Administration.
The Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act would hasten the migration of government users—particularly Department of Defense users—out of commercially desirable frequencies to alternative bands by creating a relocation fund, which would be built on the proceeds from spectrum auctions conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. Without new legislation, if a commercial user wins spectrum used by the government, it must pay to relocate the government users to other frequencies.
The House Internet and telecommunications subcommittee approved the bill after changes were made to an earlier version that worried some, including officials at the Pentagon and in the Administration. The approved version reduces the number of bands eligible for the fund and increases the level of congressional oversight, establishing a framework to ensure that the cost of DoD spectrum relocation doesnt become exorbitant.
The wireless industry, always seeking ways to get more spectrum, praised the subcommittees work. The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association backed the legislation as a means of freeing up new frequencies for advanced wireless technologies. “We now have a pathway to growth for the next generation of wireless services,” Steve Berry, senior vice president for Government Affairs at CTIA, said in a statement.
The Bush administration last July announced plans to free 90MHz of spectrum for commercial wireless services, 45MHz of which is occupied by the military. Under those plans, the Department of Defense has until 2008 to relocate its systems in the 1710MHz to 1755MHz band.
The legislation faces an uphill battle, even in the House. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., a vocal proponent of the measure, said Wednesday that it is likely to face resistance from members of the appropriations committees, who traditionally have authority over federal spending decisions.
“This bill does not reflect the normal congressional process,” Tauzin said, urging members of the subcommittee to promote it actively among their colleagues. “Weve got to sell it to some people as we go forward.”
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