Budget Bill Includes Federal Spectrum Auction

The compromise budget bill being hammered out in Congress includes the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015, which would reallocate and auction federal spectrum for non-federal use or shared use by federal and non-federal users, or a combination of those.

A draft of the Pipeline Act was circulated before a House Communications Subcommittee hearing Oct. 7 on federal spectrum and has now been fleshed out and included in the budget bill.

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.

Ed Luttrell, the National President of The National Grange of the order of Patrons of Husbandry, which is pushing for rural broadband buildouts that can help farmers better manage their businesses, applauded inclusion of the spectrum legislation as part of the budget bill.

"We are particularly pleased that the draft budget introduced Monday includes specific language with deadlines designed to get more wireless spectrum to the private market," he said in a statement. "While we agree more must be done to deploy high-speed, fixed broadband to remote corners of the country, we believe that selling or sharing underused, federally-held spectrum is the most pressing matter. We are happy that all discussions continue to emphasize underserved communities such as rural America and urge Congress to turn words into action.”

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.