The payroll tax deal passed by Congress today included two little-known provisions pushed by U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (WA-01) that will help unleash innovation in technology and increase government efficiency and transparency. The first provision will improve the spectrum allocation process; the second will preserve the 700 MHz narrowband spectrum for local governments' public safety communication systems. The overall spectrum provisions in the bill allow for faster deployment of the next generation of voice and data wireless services through improved processes and transparency in the spectrum auction process.
The first provision was originally introduced in H.R. 3019, the Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act authored by Rep. Inslee and U.S. Representative Fred Upton (MI-6), and will make the current spectrum relocation process faster and more transparent.
"Spectrum relocation supports innovation, competition, and job creation as well as improves government efficiency -- so it's a big win for taxpayers and economic development," said Rep. Inslee. "In addition to the billions for spectrum in the bill, the small provision that I authored in this legislation will make unused government spectrum available to meet growing consumer demand for secure and reliable mobile, voice, data and video services. That means better products for consumers, a clearer process for businesses, and a better deal for taxpayers."
The Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) previous auction of spectrum in 2008 resulted in $19.592 billion in revenue for the treasury; however since the auction the relocation process has been delayed. The payroll tax deal would amend the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act (CSEA) to speed up and streamline the clearing process between government agencies and the commercial entities that purchases the spectrum, putting billions back into the Treasury.
The second provision requires the return of the "T-band" spectrum to the FCC for auction instead of the 700 MHz "narrowband" spectrum, which is currently used by public safety communications systems, including many of Washington state's transit agencies. Rep. Inslee led a letter with U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (WA-02) and Adam Smith (WA-09) to the conference committee leadership urging them to consider the impact of removing the 700 MHz spectrum at a time when many local governments have invested in communications systems dependent on that spectrum availability.
"It just wasn't right that after local governments spent millions to comply with the FCC's mandate that they use that particular band of spectrum, the federal government would turn around and kick them off of it," said Rep. Inslee. "Preserving the 700MHz narrowband spectrum for public safety communications will save close to $33 million for King County alone, not to mention other local governments' investments in similar communication infrastructure."
"In Washington state, we are already innovating the next generation of wireless technologies and creating jobs associated with their development. With these two provisions, we will improve government efficiency at the benefit of consumers by increasing our wireless capacity to support high-speed, content-rich technologies."