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WASHINGTON (AP) – The government is delaying a planned auction of wireless licenses that are ideal for delivering high-speed Internet, video and other features to telephones and handheld devices.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday it will push back the auction, scheduled for September, so the agency can address questions raised by several parties.

The auction involves frequencies now used by broadcasters still operating on channels 60 through 69. As they make the switch from analog to digital television, broadcasters eventually will give back those higher number channels to the FCC and will occupy only channels 2 through 51.

Broadcasters have until 2006 or when digital TV reaches 85 percent of the market, whichever is later, to return their analog channels to the government. In the meantime, they will continue to broadcast in two channels – one analog and one digital – so consumers still can get a signal even if they do not have a digital television.

By law, the commission must start to sell off the airwaves space above channel 51 even before the broadcasters clear out.

Wireless carriers are expected to bid aggressively for the licenses, even though some may have to wait before they can begin using it.

Those slices of the airwaves also are ideal for transmitting large amounts of data and video to handheld devices and cell phones.

The wireless industry’s top trade group applauded the commission’s action, saying it would give their companies greater certainty about when those frequencies will be clear for them to offer new services.

Broadcaster Paxson Communications Corp., which owns a number of stations operating on channels 60-69, also said it was pleased by the delay. The move will give the FCC time to consider questions about how broadcasters will be compensated for quickly moving out of their channels, the company said.


Federal Communications Commission site:

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