The House version passed on Tuesday as part of a Republican year-end package to extend the payroll tax cut. President Obama has threatened to veto the spending package because of a variety of controversial provisions.
“The House yesterday passed spectrum legislation that pays down the deficit, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, and delivers a nationwide interoperable network for public safety," Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), sponsor of the House spectrum bill and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subpanel on Communications and Technology, said in an email Wednesday. "We look forward to the Senate taking their turn to act on these important priorities for all Americans.”
The spectrum legislation would incentivize television broadcasters to give up their airwaves for the government to auction to wireless companies, which have struggled to meet the data demands of smartphones and tablet computers. The auction proceeds could generate about $15 billion to pay for other provisions in the spending package.
But Sen. Rockefeller said the spectrum auctions are "secondary" to provisions in the bill that would create a nationwide public safety network. The network would allow first responders to send videos and other data during emergencies and would help officials from different agencies communicate with each other.
"One area I won’t compromise on though is the urgency of building a nationwide interoperable network for our first responders and the public safety community," Rockefeller said. "It’s a bipartisan idea, a national priority and a plan well within our reach. Frankly, the rest of the spectrum debate is secondary to the needs of our firefighters, cops, and emergency workers.”
--Updated at 7:50 p.m. to include Rep. Walden's comment