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Wireless cleanup gets House OK

The House of Representatives votes to create a trust fund to help pay the costs of untangling the U.S. wireless spectrum.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to create a trust fund to help pay the costs of untangling the U.S. wireless spectrum.

Lawmakers passed the measure by a vote of 408 to 10, paving the way for the government to sell to commercial users airwaves currently used by federal agencies. The proceeds would then be put in a trust fund to cover the cost of moving those agencies to another chunk of the wireless spectrum.

Introduced by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the bill is one of several key pieces of legislation designed to open up more commercial airwaves to accommodate the growing number of U.S. cell phone customers.

"The legislation ensures that sufficient airwaves will be available to support millions of wireless users," said Steve Berry, senior vice president of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), a wireless phone industry trade group.

The proposed Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act must now be approved by the Senate before becoming law.

The bill is part of a broader effort to dramatically overhaul the way the government, the telecommunications industry and others use the U.S. airwaves. President George W. Bush is among those pressing for the changes to improve spectrum management and procedures. Critics say the U.S. wireless spectrum is a crowded mess that affects the efficiency of commercial and private services.

Because of the complex nature of the undertaking, it could be a number of years before such spectrum reform is enacted.