Legislation to encourage the federal government to free up spectrum for commercial licensed and unlicensed use was introduced in the House of Representatives this week. The bill requires some of the proceeds from the spectrum auctions to go toward the buildout of wireless broadband in rural America.
The bipartisan bill, known as the Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum, or AIRWAVES Act, was introduced by Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), vice chair of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and the Subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA).
“By opening up more federal spectrum for commercial usage we are helping lay the groundwork for 5G,” Lance said. “To compete in the 21st century we must have a robust spectrum pipeline so we can win the race to 5G as we did with 4G LTE.”
Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the AIRWAVES Act, in the Senate on August 1, 2017. It has not been voted on yet.
If the bill is passed, the FCC would be required to study how unlicensed spectrum can be used rural healthcare, distance learning, and agriculture. The legislation requires 10 percent of the proceeds from spectrum auctions go directly into development for wireless broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas.
“These are much needed investments that would benefit unserved and underserved communities,” said Doyle.
Spectrum Auction Deadlines
The bill would require the FCC to design an auction the spectrum between 3550 MHz and 3650 MHz by the end of the year.
“Congressman Lance has assured me that the added provisions related to 3.5 GHz are intended to facilitate the needed spectrum auction and preserve the unlicensed portion of the band, but are in no way intended to prevent the Commission from altering its current rules as it pertains to PALs,” FCC Comm. Michael O’Rielly said.
The FCC would be required to complete a rule making concerning the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding by the end of this year, according to the bill. Auctions would be scheduled for spectrum between 27500 MHz and 28350 MHz; 37000 MHz and 38600 MHz, and 38600 MHz and 40000 MHz by the end of 2019. And, by the end of 2020: frequencies between 24250 MHz and 24450 MHz; 25050 MHz and 25250 MHz; 31800 MHz and 33400 MHz, 42000 MHz and 42500 MHz, 47200 MHz and 48200 MHz and 50400 MHz and 52600 MHz would be on the auction block.
“This critical spectrum legislation demonstrates that Congress supports – on a bipartisan, bicameral basis – firm spectrum deadlines and auctions for key bands,” O’Rielly said.