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Spectrum Management and Special Funds

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Publication Date: August 2005

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS21508

Topic: Media, telecommunications, and information (Television)


The Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act (P.L. 108-494, Title II) establishes a Spectrum Relocation Fund to hold the proceeds of certain spectrum auctions for the specific purpose of reimbursing federal entities for the costs of moving to new frequency assignments. The spectrum to be vacated will be sold to wireless service providers to expand advanced communications services. In addition to furthering the development of new wireless technologies, passage of the act represents a new aspect of national policy for spectrum management by linking spectrum auction proceeds to specific funding programs. The Communications Act of 1934, which the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act amends, directs that all auction proceeds be paid to the Treasury for use as general funds.

Building on the precedent of establishing a trust fund to pay for specific purposes, Representative Stupak has introduced the Public Safety Interoperability Implementation Act (H.R. 1323), a bill that would place some auction proceeds in trust for grants to improve public safety communications. Senator Dodd and Representative Regula have proposed using auction revenue to fund a variety of initiatives for applied technology in educational and cultural programs (S. 1023, Digital Opportunity Investment Trust Act). Senator Olympia J. Snowe has introduced a bill (S. 1600) that would help lowpower television stations convert to digital broadcasting technology with funds coming from spectrum sale proceeds. Also related to the conversion to digital TV broadcasting, the SAVE LIVES Act (S. 1268, Senator McCain), while not creating a special fund, would require that some spectrum auction proceeds be set aside for specific purposes.

The Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act additionally requires the Government Accountability Office to study spectrum allocation processes and to make recommendations to Congress about possible changes. Supplementing auctions as the primary mechanism for allocating spectrum and for generating revenue from spectrum resources would represent a shift in public policy regarding spectrum management.

This report covers some of the issues of spectrum management and special funds. and will be updated.