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Spectrum Auctions and Deficit Reduction: FY2006 Budget Reconciliation

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Publication Date: October 2005

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

Series: RS22306

Topic: Media, telecommunications, and information (Television)

Abstract:

Congressional policymakers are seeking a way to accelerate the nation's transition to digital television and to expedite the transfer of certain radio frequency channels from the broadcast industry to public safety and commercial users no later than 2009. The Congressional Budget Office has informally estimated a value of $10 billion from auction proceeds for these commercial channels; many believe the amount could be higher. Broadcasters are holding this valuable spectrum (channels 52-69) but would be required to relinquish it after the transition to digital television (DTV) is achieved. Without a hard deadline, the transition to digital television has been delayed and the spectrum has not been made available for other uses. Congress anticipates applying some of the proceeds received from auctions of the spectrum to be cleared to help meet deficit-reduction goals passed in H.Con.Res. 95. Consequently, some of the legislation deemed necessary to assure a timely transition to digital television has been proposed for inclusion in the FY2006 budget reconciliation process. The Senate is considering some measures as provided in budget reconciliation bill S. 1932

The transition to digital television has two major policy components. One set of policy decisions is concerned with how best to move television broadcasters and their viewers to digital technology. The other key policy issues deal with spectrum management and allocation. Briefly discussed below are key points about the transition process and its possible impact on budget reconciliation negotiations. This report will be updated over the course of the reconciliation procedure.