Spectrum bill added to House GOP jobs package

Spectrum legislation approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee found a ride in the broad jobs package introduced by House Speaker John Boehner , R-Ohio, on Friday.

Inserted in the bill is language from a spectrum measure by Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the top House Republican on telecom issues. His bill cleared Energy and Commerce this month over objections from Democrats on issues such as an amendment repealing network-neutrality regulations passed by the Federal Communications Commission.

A summary of Boehner's plan said it is "consistent" with Walden's bill. Broadly, Walden's bill strikes a compromise between Democrats and Senate Republicans on the most controversial issue: a valuable chunk of broadband spectrum known as the D Block. It gives those airwaves to public-safety agencies to build a national communications network, a goal endorsed by President Obama.

Time is running out for D Block reallocation to find a way out of Congress this year, and the deadline matters because the FCC could move to auction the D Block spectrum next year before its authority runs out.

The spectrum language also includes a policy known as incentive auctions, giving the FCC authority to auction off broadcast TV airwaves to the wireless industry which says it needs more capacity. The government gets a cut of the auction revenues.

Boehner's 369-page bill extends the current payroll-tax rate for one year, continues unemployment benefits, and prevents a scheduled cut in Medicare physician reimbursement.