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Spectrum Sales Bill Pulled From Markup


A bill to increase the amount of airwaves to be sold off by the government has been pulled from a Wednesday Senate markup.

“Consideration has been postponed to facilitate time for additional feedback. It is tentatively rescheduled for December,” Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee spokesman Frederick Hill said in a statement emailed to CQ Roll Call Monday.

The committee is still scheduled to mark up a bill that would protect consumers from being charged fees by businesses for critically reviewing them online.

The committee had also been scheduled Wednesday to mark up a wide-ranging draft that would require federal agencies to give up for sale 50 megahertz of radio spectrum that they use instead of the 30 megahertz that was part of a two-year bipartisan budget deal reached in October (PL 114-74).

The draft spectrum bill began circulating less than two weeks ago.

Making more spectrum available for commercial use “can bring in revenue to pay down our national debt and fund other priorities,” Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said recently. He is listed as the sponsor of the draft, which does not yet have a number. The legislation was revised Friday to remove a section that would have allowed federal agencies to lease their airwaves.

Legislation scheduled for markup by the panel Wednesday includes one bill (S 2044) that would prohibit “gag clauses” in business contracts with consumers and is designed to protect consumers from being penalized by businesses for writing critical reviews. Supporters of the bill say that consumers often agree to the obscure clauses unwittingly. Thune is the lead sponsor on the bill along with Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

The bill would aim to prevent companies from using such clauses to threaten consumers with large fees or other penalties for writing critical reviews online. Businesses would still be able to pursue defamation lawsuits against anyone writing an untruthful critical review.

Online reviews of a wide range of businesses have become increasingly popular with sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon and Angie’s List, and some companies have turned to contract clauses barring criticism in an effort to protect their online reputations.

Similar bipartisan legislation (HR 2110) has been introduced in the House.

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