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Some of the details of the $150 billion economic package, passed in the House and Senate on Friday, are coming under the microscope after lawmakers pulled together bipartisan support to extend a popular payroll tax cut through the end of the year.
As the New York Times reports, Congress will pay for some of the unemployment benefits included in the package by auctioning off portions of public airwaves. The Times piece points directly to the biggest pro of the plan, which has bipartisan support: freeing up more airspace for broadband and wireless systems, resulting in faster connections for iPads, smartphones and other wireless devices. The to-be auctioned sections of public airwaves are currently used for T.V. broadcasts.
Although the Times story is overwhelmingly positive on the auctions, they do point to a provision in the bill that has some activists worried, one that F.C.C. chair Julius Genachowski says could "limit the FCC.’s ability to maximize the amount and benefits of recovered spectrum."
The provision in question—which was pushed for by broadcasters—will limit the FCC's ability to reclaim auctioned airwaves. Additionally, the bill forbids the exclusion of companies like Verizon and AT&T (who already own large swaths of the spectrum) from the auctions. Sen. John Kerry has been one of the more vocal opponents of the spectrum auction.
A section of the spectrum originally considered for auction will be set aside for a public safety network to aid transmissions of information in an emergency.