President George W. Bush's 2007 budget proposal includes authorizing the FCC to collect user fees on licensed spectrum not obtained via an auction.

Exactly what the proposal means is unclear at this time. Television and radio broadcasters' lobbying efforts have thwarted previous attempts to assess user fees on their unauctioned spectrum, but another attempt to establish such fees would not be surprising. Airwaves used by public-safety entities and the military are not auctioned, but most Beltway sources doubt that the Bush administration wants to assess a spectrum user fee on other governmental entities.

Some media reports indicated that technology proponents expressed concern that the fees would target users of unlicensed spectrum, such as the frequencies used in Wi-Fi networks. However, the wording included in the Bush budget proposal specifically mentions “unauctioned spectrum licenses,” which would seem to preclude unlicensed bands.

The budget proposal also calls for the elimination of a longtime public-safety grant.

Yucel Ors, legislative director for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, said the Bush budget proposal does not include funding for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants. Once a large program that included grants for interoperability efforts, COPS funding has dwindled in recent years, he said.

“Any reduction for funding for interoperability is not good,” Ors said. “And, no, it's not being made up on the [Department of Homeland Security] side.”

COPS also was not part of Bush's 2006 budget proposal, but Congress reinstated the program at $10 million — a significant decrease compared with the $93 million earmarked for COPS in the 2005 budget, Ors said.