Congress Reaches Deal to Allow FCC to Auction More Spectrum for 5G

House Commerce Committee lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate reached an agreement on a measure to reauthorize the FCC that also provides a way for the agency to hold more wireless spectrum auctions. The bill (H.R. 4986) also spurs deployment of next-generation wireless services and enables more station categories to be reimbursed for moves, as a result of the TV spectrum channel repack.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced on Friday that the full House will vote on the bill tomorrow. “This legislation, combining provisions that have previously passed both the House and Senate, does what no legislation has done in 28 years – it reauthorizes the FCC and includes provisions that help make sure that the Commission is transparent, efficient, and ready for the 21st century communications landscape,” stated Walden, Pallone, Thune and Nelson. They pledged to work together to ensure the bill is signed into law.

The RAY BAUM’s Act is named for former House Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, who passed away from cancer last month. The legislation to be considered Tuesday would:

  • Reauthorize the FCC and include reforms to ensure the commission continues to improve its efficiency and transparency.
  • Enact key provisions from the Senate-approved MOBILE NOW Act (S.19) to boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by identifying more spectrum – both licensed and unlicensed – for private sector use and reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.
  • Authorize a repack fund to address the shortfall in funding available to relocate broadcasters being displaced following the incentive auction, and set up new relocation funds for translators, low-power television, and radio stations that will be impacted by the repack – supplemented by a consumer education fund.
  • Include a spectrum auction deposit “fix” that allows the FCC to deposit upfront payments from spectrum bidders directly with the U.S. Treasury.
  • Direct the FCC to craft a national policy for unlicensed spectrum that includes certain specific considerations and recommendations.
  • Advance proposals that would help the FCC and law enforcement protect consumers from fraudulent telephone calls, and to educate Americans about their options to stop these illegal calls.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved an earlier version last month, Inside Towers reported. The Senate Commerce Committee passed its version of the FCC reauthorization bill last Congress.

March 5, 2018

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