UPDATE The Senate adjourned Thursday without acting to extend the FCC’s auction authority. That lapsed at midnight on March 9. It’s the first time that permission has lapsed since Congress gave the authority to the FCC three decades ago.
The House previously passed an extension though May 19, Inside Towers reported. Senate lawmakers failed to resolve a dispute between the Department of Defense and the wireless industry over how long to extend it, according to Communications Daily.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sponsored the measure to extend the auction authority. Rodgers said the short-term extension would have given Congress enough time to reach agreement on a “comprehensive package” to address several issues in the communications and technology sectors.
“For reasons unknown to me, certain senators decided to risk U.S. wireless leadership over a date change. A date change. That is unacceptable,” said Rodgers.
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel hopes the auction authority is quickly restored, noting the agency has held 100 auctions to-date that have raised a total of more than $233 billion in revenues. “Time and time again our auctions have proven to be an enormous engine for market innovation and the flourishing internet ecosystem, and for expanding the reach of next-generation connectivity to everyone, everywhere,” said the Chairwoman.
Competitive Carriers Association President/CEO Tim Donovan was disappointed as well. “Spectrum access plays a vital role in expanding ubiquitous wireless connectivity, ensuring the U.S. leads the world in the development of next generation wireless networks and applications, and closing the digital divide. Congress must reinstate auction authority as quickly as possible and continue work on a long-term solution.”
Rodgers and Pallone, too, urged the Senate to act quickly to pass the House measure to extend the Commission’s auction authority through May 19, “so we can come together and pass a longer-term solution to this issue,” added Rodgers.
The message seems to be resonating among some lawmakers. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the lead Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee. He told Bloomberg before the adjournment a lapse would have “real, deleterious consequences. It hurts economic growth. It hurts jobs. I hope we will get this resolved. We need to get it resolved.”
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief