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Super committee flop dashes spectrum auction hopes

Tue, 11/22/2011 - 1:53pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The "super committee" charged with cutting $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade announced Monday it was unable to break its bipartisan gridlock, triggering major cuts to the nation's spending on defense, Medicare and other programs.

The failure dashed hopes that the super committee would approve FCC incentive auctions to help balance the budget. The FCC estimated that voluntary auctions of underused broadcast spectrum could have generated $30 billion in revenue, cash that could have been applied to deficit reduction.

The auctions would have freed up much-needed spectrum for mobile broadband services.

CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent told Wireless Week ahead of the association's fall trade show that "the incentive spectrum auctions will happen – and sooner rather than later." This week's developments mark a major setback for the auctions, which will have to proceed as a separate bill.

Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs for CTIA, said that the association would continue to fight for the auctions despite the super committee failure.

"If the super committee process doesn't provide a path to addressing our need for more spectrum, then there are other vehicles available that will ensure our members can access unused or underutilized spectrum and meet consumers' demand for wireless broadband services," Carpenter said.

Fred Campbell, president of Wireless Communications Association International, said he was "disappointed" the super committee did not propose legislation that would have opened spectrum for the deployment of mobile broadband.

"Failing to adopt spectrum legislation this year would be a significant blow to mobile broadband providers," he said.

The National Association of Broadcasters has opposed the wireless industry's attempts to push new auctions of television airwaves on concerns that the sales won't be completely voluntary.

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