SPECTRUM NOW Act Introduced

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), Committee, Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Rep Doris Matsui (D-CA), and Rep Brett Guthrie (R-KY) introduced the “Supplementing the Pipeline for Efficient Control of The Resources for Users Making New Opportunities for Wireless (SPECTRUM NOW) Act”. This bill facilitates the speedy deployment of 5G by allowing government agencies to become more efficient and effective in their spectrum use and requiring key mid-band frequencies be made available for commercial wireless use. The bill creates a pathway for agencies to modify their operations on federally-held spectrum to make those frequencies available for commercial wireless broadband use. Congress passed the Spectrum Pipeline Act in 2015, which broadened the scope of expenses that could be supported by the Spectrum Relocation Fund (SRF). Current law allows federal agencies to perform research and development, engineering studies, economic analyses, and other planning activities that could lead to spectrum being repurposed for commercial use, but it limits the resources within the SRF that these federal agencies can actually access for this research and planning. 

The SPECTRUM NOW Act allows agencies that have submitted a plan under the Spectrum Pipeline Act to access the existing, otherwise unused SRF funds that they currently cannot in order to study the possibility of increasing their spectrum efficiency and relocating or sharing their spectrum with commercial users. Without this fix, federal agencies that have currently identified spectrum that could be repurposed would be unable to conduct the engineering research that would result in the spectrum being made available for commercial wireless use. The bill:

  • Improves Federal agencies’ ability to study making spectrum available for commercial wireless use.
  • Requires a plan be submitted to repurpose the 3450 MHz – 3550 MHz band for commercial wireless use. This band is adjacent to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, which is expected to be auctioned next year.   
  • Creates a timeline for formal identification and auction of the 3450 MHz – 3550 MHz band, provided the study required by the SPECTRUM NOW Act determines it can be made available for commercial use.
  • Requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to consult with the Federal Communications Commission and the relevant federal agency on whether spectrum subject to a plan could be made available on an unlicensed basis, if a study reveals it could not be made available for auction on a licensed basis.
  • Updates an annual report by NTIA on the implementation of relocation or sharing arrangements of federal spectrum.

Wicker, Schatz, Matsui, Guthrie Introduce the SPECTRUM NOW Act