Days after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the delay of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction until mid-2015, Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), co-chairs of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Spectrum Working Group, introduced bipartisan legislation giving the federal government financial motivation to manage spectrum more efficiently.
The Federal Spectrum Incentive Act will allow government agencies to receive 1% of the revenue raised from either selling their spectrum or migrating to different frequencies. This, in addition to the broadcast spectrum auction, is expected to help provide the private sector enough spectrum to accommodate growing demand.
“By providing financial incentives for the first time, this bipartisan legislation will serve as a model to encourage the government to reallocate non-critical spectrum for commercial purposes” Rep. Matsui said in a statement. “It will provide many federal agencies an opportunity that will be hard to refuse, particularly as our nation’s budget continues to shrink.”
According to Jot Carpenter, Vice President of Government Affairs for CTIA, The Wireless Association, because “the federal government is the single largest holder of spectrum below 3 GHz…incenting agencies to relinquish bands they aren’t utilizing or using efficiently can help the commercial mobile industry gain access to the spectrum it needs to maintain America’s place as the world’s leader in wireless broadband service.”
AT&T’s Executive Vice President-Federal Relations Tim McKone echoed support for this legislation. “We believe the legislation, while not practical for all government agencies, provides a workable alternative to those agencies that have stopped using or have found alternative systems for their wireless communications needs,” he said. “The approaching spectrum crunch calls for unique proposals like this and others that will provide federal agencies the funding they need to research and develop new techniques and systems that will allow the agency to perform their mission.”
Veronica O’Connell, Vice President, Congressional Affairs, CEA, said her organization welcomed “this innovative, bipartisan legislation,” noting, “effective and efficient use of spectrum, both commercial and federal, is vital to ensuring that our nation has enough supply to keep up with demand.” CEA is hopeful that this legislation spurs efforts by “federal users to seriously consider terminating or sharing existing spectrum assignments.”
At a time when the spectrum crunch is looming and private enterprise looks to increase its holdings to better offset and manage growing demand, this proposal provides yet another path for getting spectrum to the hands of those who need it most – consumers.