Passage of the comprehensive RAY BAUM Act by the House Tuesday (March 6) drew much of the same cheering crowd, with a few nits to pick sprinkled in, that greeted its unanimous passage out of the Energy & Commerce Committee.
It heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass and be signed into law by the President.
"[T]his package represents a bipartisan, bicameral compromise that both makes good on a promise to broadcasters to hold harmless full power television and radio broadcasters in the incentive auction and puts the country on an important path towards leadership in 5G," said FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly. "Specifically, by including both MOBILE NOW and the Spectrum Deposits Act [which insures that the FCC can hold future auctions] in today’s compromise, it provides an important technical fix and lays important groundwork for the FCC to proceed with key spectrum auctions. Once this becomes law there are several large-scale spectrum auctions for mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum – especially the upper 37 GHz (37.6-38.6 GHz) – that the Commission needs to conduct in the very near future," he said.
"Finally, while the final compromise omitted key FCC process reform, I expect this issue to be revisited in Congress or through our own initiative and look forward to improving the transparency and functionality of the Commission.”
“NAB applauds today’s passage of RAY BAUM’S Act by the U.S. House of Representatives. Chairman Walden and Ranking Member Pallone deserve enormous credit for their leadership in crafting bipartisan, unanimous legislation that ensures local broadcasters are fairly reimbursed for expenses related to the spectrum ‘repack," said National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith. "NAB will continue to work with them, along with their colleagues in the Senate, to ensure this legislation’s passage into law along with full funding for the repack in the final omnibus spending bill.”
"NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association applauds the bipartisan approval of legislation to reauthorize the FCC for the first time in 28 years," said CEO Shirley Bloomfield. "And it’s only fitting that this legislation would be named after Ray Baum – a man who devoted much of his life to public service and treated everyone with the utmost respect. He is sorely missed by all who knew him, but his legacy lives on through measures such as this and the many policies he helped to craft over his career. In addition to reforms aimed at addressing efficiency and transparency within the FCC and the inclusion of provisions from the Senate’s MOBILE NOW bill, the legislation also includes NTCA-supported provisions with respect to the administration of the FCC’s essential universal service programs. We are thankful for the hard work by members of the House and look forward to enactment of such legislation in the near future.”
“The RAY BAUM’s Act is the product of many long hours of hard work to achieve a bipartisan, bicameral compromise, and while no bill is perfect, this Act contains many solid policy advancements for digital communications in the 21st century,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). “I’m especially proud to see two pieces of legislation I’ve championed for many years included in this package. Dig Once will make it easier for states and broadband providers to enter new and underserved markets by laying the broadband conduit during construction of roads. This will reduce costs drastically and increase access for communities across the country,” Eshoo said, while "the RESPONSE Act will provide first responders with the precise location of a 9-1-1 caller, whether they’re on the 20th floor of a hotel or the 30th story of an office building. Every second counts in lives saved during emergencies, and location technology is essential for first responders to save the lives of those in danger.”
“I have seen firsthand in the Second District of Kentucky how American companies are innovating and developing new technology to compete in our rapidly digitizing economy,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.). “For the U.S. to remain at the forefront of innovation across all sectors, we must unleash more spectrum for commercial use, which is crucial for the success of 5G service and expansion of broadband internet access. I was proud to join with Congresswoman Matsui to introduce the Spectrum Auction Deposits Act, and I was glad to see it included in Ray Baum’s Act.”
“Our ability to unlock additional spectrum is critical to the deployment of next-generation networks,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). “With this fix, the FCC can continue to hold auctions that will help free up more spectrum for commercial use and propel our online economy forward. I’m pleased that we were able to advance this legislation as part of the FCC’s reauthorization, and thank Congressman Guthrie for his continued work on this important issue.”
“America’s Public Television Stations are most grateful that the U.S. House of Representatives voted today to authorize the much-needed additional funding for broadcasters required to repack their channels in the aftermath of the spectrum auction," said APTS President Patrick Butler. "This additional funding – whose need was predicted by the broadcasting industry and by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden before the spectrum law was enacted in 2012 – would ensure that our local public television stations have the resources they need to complete the repacking in a timely and efficient way, educate consumers about the transition and minimize disruption for their viewers."
The bill cleans up several loose ends in terms of repack funding, increasing funds for all TV stations, and adding LPTVs, translators, and radio stations to those who can tap into the money.
“Nonprofit, local public television stations simply can’t afford to cover the costs of the mandatory repacking," said Butler. "With this legislation, the House takes an important step towards keeping Congress’s promise to hold repacked broadcasters harmless. This critical funding would allow local public television stations to continue to pursue their essential public service missions in education, public safety and civic leadership without fear of going off the air for lack of sufficient funds to complete the post-auction transition."
The bill's passage is not the end of the story, since the money must be appropriated through a budget bill. "“We remain hopeful that congressional appropriators will include the needed repacking funding in the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill," said Butler.
“The inclusion of spectrum provisions from Senator [John] Thune’s Mobile Now Act is welcome progress for America’s next generation wireless networks," said Rob McDowell, chief public policy advisor with Mobile Future. "Also among the bill’s many important provisions is language that will allow the FCC to conduct the new spectrum auctions that FCC Chairman Pai announced last week. This continued focus on the tools we need to be 5G ready is good news for innovators, consumers and investment in our mobile economy.”
"We commend the House for advancing this bipartisan legislation and ensuring it enacts critical parts of the MOBILE NOW Act," said Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro. "Americans depend on spectrum to power the smartphones, tablets and many other connected devices that are used in everyday life. This legislation will secure additional spectrum for commercial use by 2020, allowing American consumers to stay online and connected.
"Not only is increased bandwidth important for powering today's wireless technology, but it's essential for the success of future U.S. innovation. It ensures entrepreneurs can create and pursue new technologies, including advancing the development of 5G wireless broadband. We thank the House and Senate Committees for their leadership on this important issue and urge the Senate to follow the House and pass this legislation without delay."
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.
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