House Passes Bill to Extend FCC Auction Authority

The House passed a bill to extend the FCC’s auction authority. Currently, it expires March 9. H.R. 1108 would lengthen the agency’s ability to conduct spectrum auctions through May 19. The legislation now moves to the Senate. 

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced the measure. Rodgers cited the need for legislative action on spectrum issues, Inside Towers reported. “American leadership matters, and we see a growing threat from China. China is making it very clear that they want to lead from an economic and technological standpoint, as well as a military power.”

Trade associations praised the House action. CCA President/CEO Tim Donovan called the House passage a good first step. “Work remains to advance a longer timeframe for auction authority that furthers work on bands that can be reallocated for continually growing wireless use and provides additional funding to address the shortfall for the ‘Rip and Replace’ program,” he said. He noted “Rip & Replace” remains a key bipartisan priority for national security, and carriers who have worked diligently to replace untrusted telecommunications network equipment must have the certainty of full funding as soon as possible.”

“With the looming March 9 deadline, I’m pleased to see the House act to extend the Commission’s auction authority to May 19,” said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. The group is the internet and competitive networks association. “While this is a necessary step, I encourage all sides to reach a long-term agreement as soon as possible. Any package that is passed needs to empower the FCC to leverage the nation’s spectrum resources for more licensed and unlicensed broadband use cases, including 5G service,” said Pickering. He added the authority is “critical” to ensuring “the U.S. is at the forefront of innovation and remains a global leader in the telecommunications marketplace.”

After the FCC’s February monthly meeting, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel was asked where talks stand on the issue of extending the Commission’s auction authority. She said the FCC’s auctions “have been a good deal for the United States,” helping to support the nation’s “economic and national security.”

Rosenworcel explained that Commission spectrum auctions “have raised over $233 billion,” putting new spectrum into the economy, “airwaves that have helped create so much in wireless innovation that is used not just domestically, but worldwide. It is authority that we want to see continue, and there are lots of people hard at work on that. So, stay tuned,” she said.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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