It had been widely expected that the $1.2 trillion package produced by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee) would have included spectrum auctions and funded the creation of a 700 MHz public safety broadband network (PSBN). But on Tuesday, with the committee's formal announcment that an agreement could not be reached, hopes to use that package as a vehicle for the spectrum legislation were dashed. This is the second time that spectrum legislation has failed to pass as part of a larger package; the first was the debt ceiling bill passed earlier this year.
Several legislative vehicles are now being considered, including an omnibus apppropriations bill to fund the government for the remainder of FY12, or individual appropriations bills. In the meantime, standalone bills will be proceeding under "regular order" in both the Senate and the House.
In the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee has been working on a revision of the Republican draft released in July. With the failure of the Super Committee, the committee may resume consideration of the bill, with possible mark-up in December.
In the Senate, S. 911 was passed by the Commerce Committee but has yet to be scheduled for a Floor vote.
Throughout the deliberations of the Super Committee and now going forward, UTC has continued to carry its message to key congressional staff and Members about the public policy, operational, and monetary benefits that utilities bring to the table as partners in the construction and operations of the PSBN. Our main focus has been to ensure that utilities can share the 700 MHz spectrum and access the network notwithstanding Section 337 of the Communications Act and that State or regional partnership agreements between public safety and utilities, including terms related to traffic management, be given federal recognition.
The creation of the PSBN is on the priority list of both Sen. Rockefeller, chair of the Commerce Committee, and Rep. Upton, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Final enactment, whether as part of a larger package or as standalone legislation, is anticipated in the near term.