The top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked the panel's GOP leaders to postpone Thursday's markup of spectrum legislation offered by Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.
The Democrats wrote full committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Walden to say a delay is necessary to give them more time to analyze Walden's spectrum bill and to give both parties a chance to resume negotiations on crafting bipartisan legislation.
"We believe the difference between us can be resolved and we have some new ideas for bridging our differences that we would like to discuss with you," Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Communications and Technology Subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., wrote. "We hope you will agree to postpone the markup so we can work with you to produce a bipartisan bill that all members can support."
Following the release of Walden's draft bill on Tuesday, Waxman chided the panel's GOP members for cutting off negotiations last month before a bipartisan deal could be reached. He also announced that Democrats on the panel planned to introduce their own competing spectrum measure.
Still, in their letter Wednesday, Waxman and Eshoo praised Walden for reversing his previous opposition to giving a stretch of spectrum known as the D-block to public safety officials to create a national broadband network.
The Democrats, however, voiced concern that Walden's bill doesn't provide enough funds for building the network and that provisions related to deploying and maintaining it are too burdensome. They also complained about a provision that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from allocating some spectrum freed up through incentive auctions authorized by the bill for unlicensed uses such as super-fast Wi-Fi.
"After almost a year of hearings and extensive meetings, the committee looks forward to convening the markup tomorrow at 10 a.m." a Walden spokeswoman said in response to the Democrats' letter.
Wireless companies and other supporters of freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband technologies have been keen for the committee to act on the issue. "Spectrum is a vital resource that needs immediate attention. We are thankful for the chairman's leadership and the progress that's been made," AT&T Executive Vice President of Federal Relations Tim McKone said in a statement Tuesday.