Wireless industry expects supercommittee to propose spectrum auctions

{mosads }The wireless industry argues it needs more spectrum, the public airwaves that devices use to transmit signals, to accommodate the growing number of data-hungry smartphones and tablet computers.

They are pushing for voluntary incentive auctions to encourage television broadcasters to give up their spectrum. Under that proposal, broadcasters would put their spectrum up for auction in exchange for some of the proceeds from the auctions. 

The auctions could raise as much as $25 billion in revenue for the government, according to estimates.

Television broadcasters say they support voluntary auctions, but argue any plan should include strong protections to ensure no television station is forced out of business against its will.

Christopher Guttman-McCabe, CTIA's vice president of regulatory affairs, said the goal of the spectrum auctions is not to eradicate free over-the-air broadcasting.

"[The broadcasters] say they understand this, but their advocacy doesn't always match," he said. 

“We’ve said all along that it is our belief that broadcast and broadband can coexist and that we want to be part of the solution so long as broadcasters who choose not to go out of business are held harmless," said Dennis Wharton, vice president for communications of the National Association of Broadcasters. "It is also important to examine the claim that there is a spectrum shortage, especially in light of evidence suggesting otherwise.”

The CTIA officials said they are happy that President Obama included spectrum auctions in his American Jobs Act, but are concerned about a provision in the bill that would levy new fees on spectrum license holders.

"I don't think the way to create new jobs in America is a tax on wireless," said Jot Carpenter, CTIA's vice president of government affairs. 

This post was updated at 1:44 p.m.