By Representative Greg Walden
There are no priorities before Congress more pressing than spurring private sector job growth and reducing the deficit.
That's why, under my direction, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee has dedicated the past year to exploring how spectrum policy can help accomplish these goals.
Following multiple hearings, negotiations, and input from job creators, public safety officials, and other stakeholders, I am disappointed that we could not develop a bipartisan bill. But for the sake of the economy and public safety, we decided to take the best ideas and move forward today with unveiling the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011.
The JOBS Act will advance wireless broadband service, spur billions of dollars in private investment, create thousands of jobs, help bring interoperable broadband communications to public safety officials, and reduce the deficit by approximately $15 billion.
The amount of data delivered over wireless networks alone last year was three times higher than the traffic on the entire Internet in 2000. And as American consumers' demand for wireless Internet grows with the expansion of smartphones and tablets, so does the need for more broadband.
The JOBS Act provides additional broadband spectrum and authorizes the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions. Incentive auctions give the FCC the flexibility to promote more efficient use of spectrum by sharing a portion of auction proceeds with current licensees that are willing to return their licenses to the Commission for re-auction.
New construction and maintenance of wireless networks will inject billions of dollars of new capital into the economy and create high-paying jobs in an industry that touches the daily lives of nearly every American business, consumer and citizen.
The proceeds from these auctions will provide approximately $15 billion for deficit reduction.
Members of both parties have identified spectrum as a top policy priority, and President Obama included incentive auctions in both his FY 2012 budget and subsequent jobs proposals. We are in agreement: The American people cannot wait any longer. It's time to move this legislation and jumpstart job creation.
To find common ground and ensure public safety personnel have the resources they need to respond to national disasters, we worked hard to forge a consensus position on heavily debated issues that should help move the legislation through both chambers and place it on the president's desk in a timely manner.
This bill fulfills tandem spectrum needs. It will help satisfy the public appetite for commercial broadband and free up additional spectrum for our nation's first responders to build an interoperable public safety network. After months of discussion, the JOBS Act strikes a fine balance by reallocating the "D-block" from commercial to public safety use and providing up to $6.5 billion to help build the interoperable broadband network.
In return, the bill requires public safety to transfer over time to commercial use its narrow-band spectrum in the 700 MHz block so it can be used to create jobs and help meet consumers' growing demand for more mobile broadband services while also providing the 20 MHz of spectrum public safety officials requested.
No party, special interest, or lobby gets everything they want in this legislation. But for the American people, it delivers on three important goals for the country: job creation, deficit reduction, and a nationwide public safety network.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee.