Two key lawmakers said Tuesday that despite some differences between the House and Senate approaches to the issue, they are still hopeful spectrum legislation will be included in a package to extend a payroll tax cut.
House and Senate lawmakers on the payroll tax cut conference committee met again Tuesday to try and hammer out differences between the two chambers' versions of the legislation but did not discuss spectrum.
Still, House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman of California, one of the House Democratic conferees, told Tech Daily Dose that staffers are meeting and making slow progress on ways to narrow differences between the House-GOP passed spectrum legislation, which was included in a one-year extension of the payroll tax bill, and a stand-alone bipartisan spectrum bill approved last summer by the Senate Commerce Committee.
Both bills focus on freeing up more spectrum to meet the nation's growing demand for wireless technologies and providing public safety officials with spectrum and funding to help build a national wireless broadband network. They also would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions of spectrum voluntarily relinquished by broadcasters.
The major sticking points continue to be over how much flexibility the FCC should be given to set aside spectrum for unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi, who should be allowed to participate in the incentive auctions, and the governance structure of the public safety network, Waxman said.
"If we can work out the policy, we want to move it ... The differences on this bill have never been so great that we couldn't resolve it in the House," Waxman said. He and most of the other Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee did not support the House GOP spectrum measure when it was approved by the Communications and Technology Subcommittee late last year because of their concerns over the restrictions on unlicensed spectrum and the public safety governance structure.
House Republicans may have the upper hand in the negotiations given that their spectrum legislation is in the House payroll measure and the Senate Commerce bill is not. In addition, the authors of the House spectrum bill, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., are among the House payroll-tax negotiators, while no one from the Senate Commerce Committee is on the conference committee.
"We have to work to accommodate the positions of both the House and the Senate," Waxman said. "The House bill was only a partisan bill -- never voted on in full committee, went right to the floor and the Senate's not going to take it as is."
Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Tuesday he believes differences over how to structure the public safety network, which is his top priority, could be resolved by having the National Telecommunications and Information Administration oversee its development. "I'm hopeful," Rockefeller said about finally getting spectrum legislation enacted. "The problem is always on the House side."