Supercommittee fail might kill spectrum auction

(Sprint Connection note: Among the impacts of Congress’ supercommittee’s failure to reach a deficit-reduction agreement is the jeopardizing the sale of new radio spectrum much coveted by the wireless industry.)

The panel’s failure reduces prospects for an auction of television airwaves that could produce as much as $24.5 billion for the U.S. Treasury, Jeffrey Silva, a Washington-based analyst with Medley Global Advisors, said in an interview. Four of the supercommittee’s 12 members had expressed support for auctions, including two Democrats and two Republicans.

The airwaves would help mobile carriers led by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless handle growing wireless data from smartphones and tablet computers. The Obama administration wants more airwaves for wireless use, and the Senate Commerce Committee in June approved a bill setting up the auctions of airwaves surrendered voluntarily by TV stations owners.

“The chances are reduced dramatically” in part because the House may not be able to surmount disagreements including whether to give a nationwide swath of airwaves to emergency workers, or to auction that portion, Silva said.

“The differences are going to be so great,” Silva said. “They’re going to run out of time.”

Broadcasters are wary of the auctions, in part because they worry that signals could be sapped by channel reassignments for the TV stations that are still operating. “They have plenty of clout in Congress” and lawmakers may be reluctant to fight with broadcasters in an election year, Silva said.