The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology unanimously voted on Wednesday to advance the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act.
The draft bill, also known as H.R. 1641, is a bipartisan measure that seeks to “incentivize federal agencies to free up additional spectrum for commercial use by relocating and consolidating spectrum holdings in return for a portion of the auction revenues.”
During Wednesday’s markup session the committee also approved a Discussion Draft bill that would amend the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Organization Act to facilitate smoother deployment of broadband infrastructure.
The Discussion Draft bill combines six previous proposals that would institute the “dig-once” provision to install broadband infrastructure where federally funded highway projects are underway; require federal agencies to use common forms, contracts and fee schedules; expand access to pole attachments for broadband deployment; create an inventory of federal broadband assets and assign responsibility for tracking federal permit applications; require agencies to streamline their permitting processes for locating broadband facilities; and streamline the federal requirements for historical and environmental impact evaluations of broadband facilities.
“These are the networks that keep us in touch every day and keep us connected during emergencies and that’s why Congress’ priority should never be whether to invest in this critical infrastructure but how we invest,” Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) said during the session. “The budget deal we reached a few weeks ago was a good start…(but) only by continuing these twin efforts of improving network infrastructure and freeing up more spectrum can we meet consumer demand.”
The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) on Wednesday released a statement applauding the advancement of the measures.
With Wednesday’s passage, both bills will be forwarded to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
The spectrum act advanced by the House Wednesday appears similar to a draft bill circulating in the Senate that would also provide financial motivation for federal agencies to surrender underused portions of spectrum that are assigned to them. Dubbed the Mobile Now Act, the Senate bill would also cement President Obama’s goal of clearing 500 MHz of spectrum by 2020 as a long-term goal and bump the spectrum auction target in the recent Bipartisan Budget Act from 30 MHz to 50 MHz by 2024.
The Mobile Now Act is still awaiting review by the Senate Commerce Committee after it was scrubbed from the Nov. 18 docket.
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