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CTIA applauds tax cut continuation act

Thu, 02/16/2012 - 3:14pm
Monica Alleven, Wireless Week

CTIA is happy that lawmakers have agreed to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of this year because it includes a provision to auction off airwaves and give its members access to precious spectrum.

"Today's action to make repurposed broadcast spectrum available for wireless broadband service is vital to ensuring America's wireless industry remains the world's leader in the deployment of 4G services," said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent.

"This additional spectrum will help CTIA's members meet Americans' voracious appetite for mobile Internet anywhere and anytime," he said. "While current usage is significant with more than 340 billion MB of wireless data used in the first half of 2011, mobile data usage is expected to grow by a factor of 16 over the next five years. The spectrum made available by this legislation is key to meeting that demand, as well as to enabling the industry to support advances in areas like mHealth and smart energy."

Details in the deal were not immediately available, but lawmakers are expected to pass it by the end of this week.

The legislation would authorize the FCC to auction airwaves that belong to television broadcasters, a hotly contested scenario with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). But the deal apparently includes enough compromise to satisfy the NAB, which issued a favorable statement on it.

"NAB salutes the tireless efforts of Congress to ensure that local broadcasters have a vibrant and robust future," NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said. "Special thanks go to Chairmen Upton and Walden for steering this bill to conclusion, and to Reps. Dingell and Bilbray for a critically important amendment guaranteeing continued viewer access to TV station signals along the Canadian and Mexican borders.

"Tens of millions of Americans rely every day on local TV broadcasters for news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather warnings. We look forward to working with Congress and the FCC to implement an incentive auction program that does not jeopardize that service."

Analysts at Stifel Nicolaus said it's their understanding the bill will retain a House provision to require the FCC to allow all qualified bidders to participate in new auctions, probably in the next two to four years, but with some tweaks to clarify the FCC's authority.

"While we haven't seen the precise wording, our sense is the Bells will gain the freedom to participate in auctions, with the ability to more openly contest FCC restrictions in a rulemaking. So all sides live to fight another day, with some guidance, but some degree of ambiguity," the analysts wrote.

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