Spectrum

Spectrum bill passes Senate panel

Wikimedia image: Senator John Thune.

A bill backed by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) looks to free up more government spectrum for mobile broadband.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously approved the MOBILE NOW Act on March 3. The bill aims to increase wireless broadband development by making more spectrum available for broadband providers, including some frequencies currently controlled by federal users.

The bill would enshrine in law the Obama administration's plan to put 500 megahertz of spectrum up for auction for wireless and mobile broadband use. It puts the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (a Commerce Department component) on the hook for identifying 255 MHz of federal and non-federal spectrum to put in the pipeline for next generation or 5G wireless broadband.

"Enactment of this legislation will pave the way to a 5G future where Americans have access to ultra-fast, next generation wireless technology," Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said in a statement.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who co-sponsored the bill, said, "It is hard to imagine our lives today without our mobile phones. And our reliance on these devices will only grow. "

The bill also directs agency heads to collaborate on a report to Congress that includes recommendations on how to incentivize federal spectrum holders to share or relinquish spectrum with commmerical users. That report is due 18 months after the bill becomes law.

On the House side, the bipartisanCongressional Spectrum Caucus has offered legislation to allow agencies who relinquish spectrum to get some funding back from spectrum sales to offset sequestration cuts.

The Commerce Committee is hopeful that the legislation will be taken up on the Senate floor soon. It's not clear if the bill has a future in the House.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a staff writer covering Congress, the State Department, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to joining FCW, Chowdhry covered foreign policy for CQ Roll Call. Her overseas work prior to that took her to Pakistan and Afghanistan. She has worked as a correspondent for Reuters based out of Islamabad. Chowdhry has also worked at the CBS affiliate in Washington as a multimedia journalist. She began her career as a freelance reporter for USA Today and covered stories from conflict zones. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, and Voice of America, among others.

Chowdhry received her masters in broadcast journalism from American University in Washington, D.C.

Click here for previous articles by Chowdhry, or connect with her on Twitter: @aishach


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