Budget Bill Approved With Spectrum Pipeline

The Senate early Friday morning passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, a two-year bill that averts a government shutdown, raises the debt ceiling, and requires the government to find and auction spectrum now in the hands for federal agencies.

The bill has already passed the House.

Title X of the bill, the Spectrum Pipeline Act,  would reallocate and auction federal spectrum for non-federal use or shared use by federal and non-federal users, or a combination of those.

The bill directs the Secretary of Commerce to submit a report to the President and the FCC identifying 30 MHz in bands of at least 10 MHz of contiguous frequencies for such reallocation.

The President is then directed to withdraw or modify the licenses of federal spectrum holders after which the FCC will designate it for non-federal of shared use.

The auction would have to begin by July 1, 2024, with all the costs and then some (110% of those costs) required to be covered by the proceeds.

The FCC would also be required to submit reports to Congress within three years on proposals to free up more spectrum that can be shared by incumbents with new licensed and unlicensed services and identify at least one GHz of spectrum between 6 GHz and 57 GHz for that purpose.

Separate appropriations bills for individual federal agencies still have to be hammered out in accordance with the larger budget framework passed Friday, including ones in the House and Senate for the FCC that currently include riders limiting or blocking new net neutrality rules.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.