A bipartisan group of House Energy and Commerce members are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to provide more details about how its proposal to incentivize broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum would ensure that consumers and broadcasters are protected under the plan.
The letter Tuesday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also echoes calls from other lawmakers to complete action on a spectrum inventory so that lawmakers have a "complete picture of who is licensed to use what airwaves and how effectively they are being used."
Signatories of the letter include Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., former Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas.
The FCC has called on Congress to pass legislation that would allow the commission to conduct incentive auctions aimed at persuading broadcasters to voluntarily relinquish some of their spectrum in exchange for a share in the proceeds from the auction of those airwaves.
In their letter, the lawmakers said such a proposal "will need to address several questions." They include what the effect will be on broadcasters who decide not to give up any spectrum when others agree to voluntarily hand over some of their airwaves; how these broadcasters will be relocated to other bands; and what assurances will be given to these volunteers that the new bands will be "as strong and robust" as their previous channels. In addition, the letter also asked what the FCC plans to do to "protect and educate" viewers who rely on over-the-air television.
Broadcasters have said repeatedly that they "have no quarrel" with incentive auctions as long as they are truly voluntary.
The demand for spectrum is being driven by the growing popularity of smart phones and other mobile wireless devices.
"Opening up additional spectrum for wireless broadband capabilities is critical to innovation and job creation in America, as is protecting our local television broadcasting system," the lawmakers said.