US lawmakers worry spectrum sale will leave cash behind

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:18pm EST

WASHINGTON Dec 12 (Reuters) - Some U.S. lawmakers say a planned auction of surplus broadcast spectrum could raise more money if gaps between the airwaves were narrower.

At a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's communications and technology subcommittee on Wednesday, Chairman Greg Walden argued that the "guard bands" regulators plan to create are too wide.

The guard bands are blank slices of spectrum designed to protect against leakage from one band to another.

The Federal Communications Commission plans to run an auction in 2014 that would allow television broadcasters to sell unused spectrum to wireless companies that are servicing ever larger numbers of cellular phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Revenue from the auction would be divided between the broadcasters who give up spectrum, a nationwide public safety initiative and the U.S. Treasury.

"What I cannot support is the unnecessary expansion of unlicensed spectrum in other bands needed for licensed services, especially at the expense of funding for public safety," said Walden, an Oregon Republican, who said the lost revenues could run into the billions of dollars.

But California Democrat Henry Waxman, among others, argued that the guard bands served an important, secondary purpose. Leaving some spectrum open in the past had let to the development of wi-fi and Bluetooth.

"Unlicensed spectrum has been an incredible economic success story," Waxman said.

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