Bloomberg News

Airwaves Auction Sought by AT&T, Verizon Cleared by House Panel

December 06, 2011

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- A House panel advanced legislation authorizing airwave auctions sought by mobile carriers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless trying to meet surging demand from smartphones.

The 17-6 vote by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology sends the measure to the Energy and Commerce Committee. An auctions bill cleared a Senate committee in June.

The auctions of airwaves voluntarily surrendered by television stations are designed to help meet growing demand from smartphones and other wireless devices. Wireless companies would buy access to airwaves to feed mobile Web devices including Apple Inc.’s iPhones and iPads.

The Obama administration has called for almost doubling the airwaves available for wireless Internet service to relieve what Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has called a “looming spectrum crunch.”

Under the Senate bill and the measure considered today, the government may share auction proceeds with station owners, establishing an incentive for TV companies to participate.

Broadcasters have said they want assurances that the auctions are truly voluntary and that any rearranging of channels doesn’t sap the signals and cut the audience of stations that remain on the air.

The House bill provides about $15 billion for deficit reduction, and as much as $6.5 billion to build an emergency workers’ radio network, Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican who leads the panel, said in a Nov. 29 statement.

‘Urgent’ Need

The emergency workers’ network would aim to avert communications failures such as those that plagued police and firefighters responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

There is an “urgent” need to enact legislation this year, Peter Davidson, Verizon senior vice president for federal government relations, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

“Verizon has consistently supported legislation that makes more spectrum commercially available for mobile services, addresses public safety’s needs for an interoperable wireless network, and helps put America’s economy back on track with deficit reduction and job creation,” Davidson said.

--With assistance from Todd Shields in Washington. Editors: Steve Walsh, Michael Shepard

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Engleman in Washington at eengleman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net


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