The House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology on Wednesday, May 24th unanimously advanced a bill to renew the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) authority to auction commercial airwaves and use the proceeds to pay for both next generation 911 and the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program. The bipartisan 50-0 vote comes after the FCC’s auction powers lapsed in March when Senate lawmakers failed to resolve disputes between the wireless industry and the Department of Defense (“DOD”).
The Spectrum Auction Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., would extend spectrum auction authority, make changes to existing spectrum auction processes, and channel auction proceeds toward programs to remove perceived national security risks.
The bill also mandates a government report identifying 350 megahertz of spectrum between 3.1 and 3.45 GHz for auction, to be used for either exclusive commercial or some combined public-private application with the DOD. The report is due June 2025 and is aimed at easing tensions between the wireless industry and the DOD.
In addition, the bill requires a National Telecommunications and Information Administration
(“NTIA”) study of spectrum between 4.4 and 4.94 GHz, and between 7.125 and 8.5 GHz, for commercial or a combination of uses. Importantly, the bill also would establish a notification process between federal agencies and the FCC regarding executive branch and DOD views on any potential spectrum auctions. Whether industry input would be available in such a process remains unclear.
If you have any questions about what this means for your business, please contact your friendly FHH attorney.