TR Daily Senators Reintroduce AIRWAVES Act to Free Up Spectrum
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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Senators Reintroduce AIRWAVES Act to Free Up Spectrum

The FCC would have to auction at least 500 megahertz of licensed spectrum below 6 gigahertz and make available at least 500 MHz of additional unlicensed spectrum above 5 GHz by the end of 2022 under legislation reintroduced in the Senate today. The FCC would have to use 10% of the proceeds of any such auctions to deploy wireless infrastructure in underserved or unserved areas, while covering the relocation or sharing costs of impacted federal government entities.

Sens. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) and Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) were joined by four of their colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum (AIRWAVES) Act. Joining Sens. Gardner and Hassan in reintroducing the bill, which was first introduced in 2017 during the 115th Congress (TR Daily, Aug. 1, 2017), were Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), and Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.).

Unlike the original bill, which included a myriad of specific bands to be auctioned, some of which have now already been auctioned or are scheduled to be, the six-page measure introduced today only sets the total amount of spectrum that must be freed up.

“First, the legislation establishes a spectrum pipeline that will provide more capacity for wireless providers to improve existing service and expand to new areas, as well as to provide greater access to spectrum for innovators to develop important next-generation technologies,” a news release on the bill said. “The AIRWAVES Act aims to motivate industry and federal agencies to find ways to better utilize spectrum and avoid a spectrum crunch and lay the groundwork for 5G technologies. Second, this legislation requires 10 percent of all of the proceeds from spectrum auctions in the bill to go directly to wireless broadband infrastructure buildout in unserved and underserved areas throughout rural communities across the country.”

“The AIRWAVES Act is bipartisan, commonsense legislation that frees up more spectrum for commercial licensed and unlicensed users and will help bridge the divide between urban and rural Colorado,” said Sen. Gardner. “This legislation offers innovative ways to avoid a spectrum crunch, pave the way for 5G service, and provide critical resources to rural America to continue rural buildout in unserved and underserved areas throughout Colorado and the country.”

“Granite State businesses and families alike need fast and reliable internet access, but lack of spectrum capacity can stand in the way of getting us there,” said Sen. Hassan. “The bipartisan AIRWAVES Act would free up badly-needed spectrum to help speed up the development of innovative 5G technologies and, crucially, it would also make meaningful investments in expanding rural broadband infrastructure in places like New Hampshire.”

The bill would require the FCC to determine that any relocation of incumbents or sharing of spectrum would not harm incumbents. If the agency determines that such harm would occur, it would have to notify Congress.

The legislation drew praise today from industry entities.

“I thank Senators Gardner and Hassan for their bipartisan work to reintroduce the AIRWAVES Act. Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless carriers, and making additional spectrum available for commercial use will greatly benefit consumers, industry and the economy as a whole, while the rural dividend provision will help close the digital divide. All Americans, particularly those in rural and hard-to-reach areas, need access to robust mobile broadband services, and I commend the senators for their tireless work and innovative ideas to ensure no consumers are left behind as we move toward next-generation technologies,” said Competitive Carriers Association President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Berry.

“Senators Gardner and Hassan are rightly focused on getting more spectrum into the commercial marketplace as quickly as possible, which is critical for 5G. We look forward to working with them to ensure that the United States maintains its leadership in wireless,” said Kelly Cole, senior vice president–government affairs at CTIA.

“NCTA welcomes the efforts by Senators Gardner and Hassan in the re-introduced AIRWAVES Act both to expand access to unlicensed spectrum that will power Gigabit Wi-Fi and to consider approaches that might fairly balance the needs of incumbent users and America’s 5G goals. We look forward to working with the bill’s sponsors and other members of the committee on these important issues,” said NCTA.

“The reintroduction of the AIRWAVES Act comes at a critical time and we need it to create a pipeline of spectrum for nationwide 5G deployment. Wireless broadband internet access will power next-gen technologies that will transform industries including healthcare and telecommunications. We look forward to working with the House and Senate as the AIRWAVES Act develops,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: Congress FederalNews FCC SpectrumAllocation WirelessDeployment

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