A bill to auction off broadcast spectrum passed a House subcommittee on Thursday — a boost to FCC efforts to enhance the creation of ever more sophisticated wireless services.

The legislation, championed by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the Communications and Technology subcommittee, passed in a 17 to 6 vote. It would allow the FCC to hold voluntary auctions in which stations could share in the proceeds in return for giving up their part of the airwaves. The legislation includes $3 billion to compensate broadcasters who move their channels to make spectrum available for the auctions.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters, a chief critic of incentive auctions, seemed satisfied that the new legislation includes conditions to protect stations. “The bill balances sound spectrum policy with protections against the potential considerable loss of local TV service by millions of Americans,” said NAB president Gordon Smith.

A spectrum bill passed in the Senate but awaits a floor vote.

An amendment to Walden’s bill also passed that would prevent the FCC from imposing Net neutrality provisions on the wireless carriers that buy up the spectrum at auction. That could generate opposition in the Senate should the bills make it to a conference committee.

Democrats had their own version of a spectrum bill, but that was rejected by the subcommittee.

Walden’s legislation also includes the creation of a broadband network for public safety.