The Washington Post

Senators Kerry, Snowe introduce spectrum inventory bill

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snow (R-Maine) said Wednesday they are introducing legislation that allows federal agencies to survey how the government is using spectrum that could otherwise be used for commercial wireless use.

The bill is being reintroduced amid greater focus by the White House and Federal Communications Commission on freeing up radiowaves for mobile high-speed networks.

In a release, the key members of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet said their bill would allow the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to take stock of radio spectrum is being used.

Broadcasters, who have been asked to participate in voluntary auctions to give up some channels to be converted for mobile broadband networks, have complained that they are being unfairly targeted. They criticize the government for focusing on television airwaves when other spectrum being used by government agencies could also be used to run a projected flood of new smart phones and tablets. FCC and the White House say broadcasters will be compensated for the radiowaves -- many of which aren't being used by television stations.

Kerry and Snowe said accurate data on spectrum use would be "essential to sound policy decisions and spectrum management."

The proposed RADIOS Act would also establish Wi-Fi hot-spots and other systems in federal buildings.

"Such efforts would improve wireless and broadband coverage for all Americans and result in lower costs to taxpayers, since spectrum would be utilized more effectively by Federal agencies," the lawmakers wrote.

Related stories:
President Obama pitches $18 billion wireless plan

Ex-Senator Gordon Smith pitches for broadcasters

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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