This month, the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee met separately to discuss spectrum policy and how to meet consumer demand for better cellphone networks. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a full committee hearing entitled “Removing Barriers to Wireless Broadband Deployment”. At the same time, the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Improving Federal Spectrum Systems”. Both hearings attempted to resolve issues of spectrum scarcity for commercial wireless deployment.
The House hearing introduced the Spectrum Pipeline Act (SPA) which, according to the Background Memo “…directs the FCC to produce a series of reports…will include draft service and auction rules for an auction, relocation plans for incumbent Federal users in the specified frequencies, and specific timelines for the proposed auctions. In addition, the reports will discuss the balance between licensed and unlicensed spectrum.” In addition the Subcommittee considered H.R. 1641, the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act of 2015, sponsored by Representatives Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Doris Matsui (D-CA). According to the Memo, “This bill amends the CSEA to allow Federal entities to participate in an incentive auction whereby agencies are compensated through auction proceeds for relinquishment of spectrum authorizations to be auctioned for commercial use. Current law only allows for entities to be reimbursed for the costs of sharing with non-Federal users or relocating. Funds from the proceeds would be placed into a fund at the Office of Management and Budget, to be used by participating agencies to offset the costs of relocation and sharing or the budgetary impact of sequestration.”
At the Senate hearing, Chairman Thune stated that the broadband legislation was the most important work that the committee could do. When announcing the hearing, Chairman Thune said that “When Congress talks about promoting American technological innovation, chances are it involves wireless broadband. For Americans in rural communities, access to technological innovation is increasingly dependent on the availability of robust wireless networks. This hearing will examine barriers, regulatory and otherwise, to the deployment of wireless broadband facilities, infrastructure, and service.”
The federal government is poised to raise tens of millions of dollars by auctioning off unneeded spectrum and bipartisan support exists in Congress to create rules to achieve that goal. Proposals include allowing federal agencies that give up their spectrum to keep one percent of the profit from the sale as an incentive. The hearings and the proposed bills aim to accomplish the transfer of spectrum from the federal government to the commercial sector in a manner that makes any agencies giving up spectrum whole and increasing efficiencies of spectrum usage. The last spectrum auction held by the FCC brought in over $40 billion dollars so the potential revenue upside for the government is huge while re-allocating this valuable resource for more efficient uses, which will help consumers in the long run.
Wireless broadband (spectrum) is crucial for all who use the technology but it is especially important for minority communities like the LGBTQ community. Read More.