Spectrum auctions included in tentative tax deal

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The spectrum is potentially worth billions of dollars to wireless carriers, which are struggling to meet the growing data demands of smartphones and tablet computers.

Although both parties support the broad outline of the spectrum legislation, lawmakers have clashed over how much authority the FCC should have to structure the auctions. 

The Republican spectrum bill, which passed the House last year, would prohibit the FCC from setting eligibility requirements and restrict the agency's ability to impose conditions on the companies that buy the spectrum. The measure would also prohibit the FCC from designating additional unlicensed spectrum, which any company can use for free.

Republicans say the restrictions would prevent the FCC from picking winners and losers and would maximize government revenue. Democrats warn that tying the FCC's hands would allow the largest wireless carriers — Verizon and AT&T — to buy up all of the spectrum at auction.

Details on the proposal included in the payroll tax cut deal were not immediately available.