Biden Touts Report Highlighting Benefits of Spectrum Incentive Auctions

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By Paul Barbagallo  

Vice President Joe Biden Feb. 21 announced the release of a report from the Council of Economic Advisers highlighting the importance of “incentive” spectrum auctions, as a vital offset for the just-passed payroll tax cut extension.

As the report underscores, the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2012 will allow the Federal Communications Commission to reclaim airwaves from TV broadcasters and auction them off to mobile network operators, sharing some of the proceeds with TV stations that volunteer to give back their spectrum to the government.

At the same time, the measure will also provide funding and spectrum for the building of a nationwide, interoperable, public safety broadband network that would link fire, police, and emergency first-responders in the event of a national emergency, such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a key policy issue for Biden.

It is estimated that incentive auctions will raise $15 billion for offsets.

“I've been working on changing the way we allocate spectrum for a long time, because a smarter system is good for our economy, good for innovation, and vital to keeping our cops, firefighters and EMTs [emergency medical technicians] safe,” Biden said in a press statement Feb. 21. “The measure that Congress just passed picks up on many aspects of the president's ‘Wireless Innovation Initiative' and will enable new spectrum to be used for innovation, to speed wireless communication, and to fulfill a promise made to first responders after 9/11 that they would have the technology they need to stay safe and do their jobs.”

The report, The Economic Benefits of New Spectrum for Wireless Broadband, notes that voluntary incentive auctions will ensure that spectrum is “reassigned from the lowest value uses to the highest, and that the economic benefits are widely shared among stakeholders, including broadcasters, wireless carriers, consumers, and taxpayers.”

The report further says that newly available spectrum for a mix of licensed and unlicensed uses will offer the “most fertile environment for future innovation.”

Enacting incentive auction legislation has been a priority for the administration since the release of the FCC's National Broadband Plan in March 2010.

For the report, visit http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=rtar-8rpuav.