Rep. Greg Walden in The Bulletin: The biggest jobs bill you may never hear about

March 12, 2012

As published in The Bulletin...

If I told you that Congress came together during an election year to pass a bill that will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs, would you believe me?

Congress recently put the finishing touches on a bipartisan agreement to extend the "middle class tax cut" for 10 months, which knocks down your payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. The plan also extended unemployment insurance with commonsense reforms, like giving states the option to screen for drug use.

Also included -- and what you may not have heard about -- is a framework I designed to free up vast swaths of wireless broadband (or "spectrum") for innovation that would produce $15 billion in revenue for taxpayers and help create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

As the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, I spent the better part of the past year writing the Jumpstarting Opportunities with Broadband Spectrum Act -- the JOBS Act.

Because it was one of the few plans in Congress that both created jobs and created revenue that could pay down the deficit or offset new spending, I was named a member of the conference committee that hammered out the final payroll tax deal. The JOBS Act was a major feature of the final legislation that the president signed into law on Feb. 22.

Telecommunications is the most vibrant and innovative sector in America today. And spectrum is the fuel it runs on. Lately, the gas gauge has been getting a little low. We're in a so-called "spectrum crunch."

There is a nearly insatiable appetite for wireless broadband in the market today, for both personal and professional use. When you take out your smartphone to tweet a message (@RepGregWalden) or check out what's new on your wall (facebook .com/RepGregWalden) or stream a viral video on YouTube (youtube .com/RepGregWalden), you need wireless broadband -- or spectrum -- to make it happen.

This is more than a plug; the point is that the uses for wireless broadband are nearly ubiquitous. Everyone's using it, from mobile apps on smartphones to streaming video on tablets and other mobile devices.

Ensuring that the marketplace has enough spectrum to fuel this exciting industry is critical for the growth of our country's economy.

To meet the public's high demand for broadband devices and services and to support the next generation of high-tech investment and innovation, the plan that Congress passed clears the path for the long-awaited auction of additional spectrum.

Spectrum auctions will bring in revenues, spur innovation and investment, and promote significant job creation. Companies like Google and Facebook and the next generation of innovators we haven't heard about all rely on a vibrant supply of wireless broadband to create the products and services that will keep America's technology industry competitive for years to come.

Along with the spectrum auctions, the plan will help to finally build the nationwide interoperable broadband public safety network that was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. America's first responders deserve a communications network that will be reliable in the moments when we rely on them most.

At its heart, though, this is a jobs plan. Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski cites one study indicating spectrum legislation could create as many as 770,000 jobs, generate $25 billion to $53 billion in investment, and produce $73 billion to $151 billion in GDP growth. The jobs numbers are part of the 4G network rollout, which this spectrum will facilitate.

It's the biggest jobs bill you may never hear about, and thankfully, after a lot of hard work, it's finally the law of the land.

Go ahead, tell your friends about it -- on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, even. The spectrum will be there to make it happen.

-- U.S. Rep. Greg Walden is a Republican from Hood River. His district covers most of Oregon east of the Cascades.

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