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Spectrum Fee Proposed in FCC 2011 Budget

Competitive bidding for all satellite services also projected

A proposed spectrum fee is one of the little nuggets contained in the Federal Communications Commission portion of the 2011 federal budget proposal submitted to Congress last week.

The administration proposes to extend the FCC’s authority to auction spectrum licenses indefinitely. Right now, that authority expires Sept. 30 of this year. It hopes a permanent extension would bring in a total $1.6 billion through 2020.

The administration has again proposed a spectrum licensing user fee on unauctioned spectrum licenses. The commission sees the fees being phased in over time as part of an ongoing rulemaking process to determine the right level. It estimates fees would start in 2010 and total $4.8 billion through 2020.

While the concept has been in the FCC budget proposal several times, it gets knocked out during conference negotiations before final congressional passage.

The agency also wants to make sure satellite services are assigned efficiently through competitive bidding, noting that “services such as Direct Broadcast Satellite and Satellite Digital Audio Radio Services were assigned by auction prior to a 2005 court decision that called this practice into question on technical grounds.”

These auctions could raise some $200 million through 2020, notes the commission.