For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

Free Press Action Fund Slams House Majority's Innovation-Killing Spectrum Bill

WASHINGTON - On Friday, the House Commerce Committee held a hearing to address wireless spectrum and public safety issues. The hearing follows the Wednesday release of draft legislation called the “Spectrum Innovation Act of 2011” by the committee’s majority staff.

The draft proposes a slew of harmful changes to spectrum allocation and spectrum management policy, including an untested and unwise system for auctioning off unlicensed spectrum. Unlicensed spectrum is used by invaluable commercial and personal devices like Wi-Fi routers, bluetooth accessories, cordless telephones, baby monitors, medical monitoring equipment and home security systems, among others.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) subsequently released a draft bill titled the "Public Safety Broadband and Wireless Innovation Act of 2011," which is similar to bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate Commerce Committee in June. The Waxman-Eshoo proposal expressly permits the FCC to preserve unlicensed use in the TV bands, but as with last month's Senate legislation, it could eliminate viable use of TV white spaces by tying the agency’s hands on determining the most valuable and efficient use of spectrum.

If enacted in their present forms, both bills risk limiting innovation and economic benefit from the most efficient uses of spectrum. The majority's bill especially would put in jeopardy the "Super Wi-Fi" agenda promulgated by a long history of bipartisan Federal Communications Commission votes, under both Chairman Julius Genachowski and former Chairman Kevin Martin. It would also undermine a key goal of the FCC’s recent National Broadband Plan of ensuring a nationwide contiguous band of unlicensed spectrum. The majority’s bill would kill a wide range of new innovative devices, already moving to market after years and millions of dollars in investment, that were developed to use unlicensed spectrum in the present-day TV bands, without causing any harm to broadcasters.


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Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

"The ironically named Spectrum Innovation Act of 2011 would do nothing less than kill off innovation in the TV white spaces and other potential unlicensed spectrum bands. Forcing companies large and small to bid for the right to use spectrum on an unlicensed basis would defeat the entire purpose of such allocations. Unlicensed spectrum lowers barriers to entry, serves as a test bed for innovation and generates tremendous economic value for the public.

"Proposals that toss unlicensed allocations aside should not even pass the laugh test. Hundreds of millions of Americans use unlicensed spectrum every day at home, in the workplace and on the go. Legislation that fails to recognize the special nature of Wi-Fi and the other possible uses of unlicensed spectrum should be a non-starter.

"The Waxman-Eshoo proposal appropriately recognizes the importance of preserving TV white spaces and unlicensed use in the TV band. Yet, we remain concerned that limiting the expert judgment of the FCC by mandating incentive auctions for 84 MHz would diminish the amount of viable spectrum for such uses. Congress should preserve these resources necessary for 'Super Wi-Fi' deployments and other technologies that would reduce the cost of wireless broadband in the nation's cities and rural areas alike."


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