Last Friday, lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle joined forces in adopting tax relief legislation with provisions that would mandate incentive auctions of broadcast television spectrum to wireless entities and prescribe reallocation of 700 MHz D-block spectrum to public safety entities. President Obama is expected to sign into law the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (H.R. 3630), which passed both chambers of Congress after a bipartisan conference committee reached agreement on a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut. Officials with the Congressional Budget Office predicted last Thursday that the spectrum provisions ratified by the conference committee would raise up to $15.2 billion for the U.S. Treasury. Unlike the version of H.R. 3630 that passed the House last December, the bill adopted last Friday would give the FCC the discretion to retain existing TV “white spaces” and create nationwide TV guard bands that may be used for unlicensed purposes. (The previous bill would have disallowed unlicensed usage of spectrum that could be auctioned to commercial wireless entities.) Although the bill bars the FCC from placing eligibility restrictions on prospective bidders who otherwise meet “the technical, financial, character and citizenship qualifications” to participate in spectrum auctions, the bill permits the FCC to enforce rules of general applicability, including rules “concerning spectrum aggregation that promote competition.” The bill also reserves $7 billion for the construction of a nationwide public safety broadband network and creates a First Responder Network Authority, to be established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to oversee the public safety network. House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) applauded the bill’s spectrum provisions as “a huge win for consumers and taxpayers” as he declared that the legislation ensures that “no qualified bidder can be excluded from . . . [auctions].” President Obama told reporters that the spectrum-related elements of the bill would enable the U.S. to “out-innovate the rest of the world by unleashing mobile broadband.” Reaction among industry officials proved just as positive, with Telecommunications Industry Association President Grant Seiffert touting the bill’s passage as a “monumental achievement” and MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist predicting that the spectrum provisions “will start to relieve the ‘spectrum crunch.’” Highlighting the long-standing advocacy of the nation’s governors for 700 MHz D-block reallocation, a spokesman for the National Governors Association proclaimed: “today’s passage demonstrates the strong bipartisan support for providing our first responders with access to the most modern and reliable communications technologies.”