House Tees Up New FCC Auction Authority Bill

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
House Communications Subcommittee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) (Image credit: House Energy & Commerce Committee)

Congress is taking another shot at renewing the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority, after that authorization lapsed in March due to its inability to pass a must-pass spending bill with auction authority attached. But the legislation is yet another stopgap renewal.

Listed last on a raft of 28 House bills all targeted at closing the digital divide is one that will be key to freeing up more spectrum for Wi-Fi: Allowing the FCC to auction spectrum by extending its authority, though only until June 30, 2023.

A marathon markup in the House Communications Subcommittee Wednesday (May 16) will include a bill, not yet named or numbered, “to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to extend the authority of the [FCC] to grant a license or construction permit through a system of competitive bidding.”

A markup is a committee or subcommittee business meeting during which bills are amended, debated and ideally get an up or down vote out of the subcommittee. Next stop would be a full committee vote.

Also Read: House E&C Leaders Decry Looming Lapse of FCC Spectrum Auction Authority

The FCC spectrum auction authority bill is being introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (D-Wash.), chair of the full Energy & Commerce Committee.

The House last month passed H.R. 1108, which at least would have extended the FCC’s authority to May 19, but the Senate failed to follow suit before that authority expired. The FCC’s authority was set to expire on September 30, 2022, but then was extended four times through March 9, 2023.

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel has called on Congress to pass a long-term extension.

In 1993, Congress authorized the FCC to grant licenses via competitive bidding, bringing in billions of dollars for the treasury.

In a report on FCC spectrum auction authority, the Congressional Research Service warned that allowing the authority to expire will create potential uncertainty “for both agencies and industry.”

Among the other 27 bills getting vetted Wednesday are a number of deregulatory bills that are intended to speed both wired and wireless broadband deployment by 1) goosing tower citing decisions; 2) setting deadlines for local franchising authorities to grant or deny applications for cable franchises and requiring those authorities to provide plenty of supporting evidence for decisions to deny a franchise; and making it easier to deploy on federal lands.

“Access to reliable high-speed broadband services has become an essential tool,” Rodgers said in announcing the markup. “In order to ensure all Americans are connected, we need to remove regulatory burdens and cut the red tape, which have resulted in unnecessary permitting delays and exorbitant costs to deploying our communications infrastructure.”

The full list of bills being marked up is below:

  • H.R. 3279, the “Winning the International Race for Economic Leadership and Expanding Service to Support Leadership Act” or the “WIRELESS Leadership Act” (Rep. Latta)
  • H.R. 3295, the “Barriers and Regulatory Obstacles Avoids Deployment of Broadband Access and Needs Deregulatory Leadership Act” or the “BROADBAND Leadership Act” (Rep. Griffith)
  • H.R. 3287, the “Cable Access for Broadband and Local Economic Leadership Act” or the “CABLE Leadership Act” (Rep. Balderson)
  • H.R. ___, the “Connecting and Building Lines for Expedited Expansion Act” or the “CABLE Expansion Act” (Rep. Lesko)
  • H.R. ___, the “Consumer Access to Broadband for Local Economies and Competition Act” or the “CABLE Competition Act” (Rep. Burgess)
  • H.R. ___, the “Cable Transparency Act” (Rep. Weber)
  • H.R. 3298, the “Broadband Expansion and Deployment Fee Equity and Efficiency Act” or the “BEAD FEES Act” (Rep. Allen)
  • H.R. ___, the “Granting Remaining Applications Not Treated Efficiently or Delayed Act” or the “GRANTED Act” (Rep. Obernolte)
  • H.R. 3300, the “5G Using Previously Granted Rulings that Accelerate Deployment Everywhere Act of 2023” or the “5G UPGRADE Act of 2023” (Rep. Harshbarger)
  • H.R. ___, the “Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment for Broadband Infrastructure Act of 2023” or the “SPEED for Broadband Infrastructure Act of 2023” (Rep. Pence)
  • H.R. 3289, the “Wireless Broadband Competition and Efficient Deployment Act” (Rep. Johnson)
  • H.R. 3288, the “Broadband Competition and Efficient Deployment Act” (Rep. Joyce)
  • H.R. ___, the “Wireless Resiliency and Flexible Investment Act of 2023” (Rep. Bucshon)
  • H.R. ___, the “Broadband Resiliency and Flexible Investment Act” (Rep. Crenshaw)
  • H.R. 3291, the “Proportional Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act” (Rep. Carter)
  • H.R. ___, the “Reducing Antiquated Permitting for Infrastructure Deployment Act” or the “RAPID Act” (Rep. Hudson)
  • H.R. ___, the “Coastal Broadband Deployment Act” (Rep. Bilirakis)
  • H.R. 3292, the “Brownfields Broadband Deployment Act” (Rep. Walberg)
  • H.R. 3280, the “Timely Replacement Under Secure and Trusted for Early and Dependable Broadband Networks Act” or the “TRUSTED Broadband Networks Act” (Rep. Guthrie)
  • H.R. 3301, the “Connecting Communities Post Disaster Act of 2023” (Rep. Dunn)
  • H.R. 3296, the “Wildfire Communications Resiliency Act” (Rep. Rodgers)
  • H.R. 3297, the “Reducing Barriers for Broadband on Federal Lands Act” (Rep. Fulcher)
  • H.R. 3309, the “Standard Fees to Expedite Evaluation and Streamlining Act” or the “Standard FEES Act” (Reps. Palmer and Ryan)
  • H.R. 3293, the “Expediting Federal Broadband Deployment Act” (Reps. Duncan and Craig)
  • H.R. 3299, the “Deploying Infrastructure with Greater Internet Transactions and Legacy Applications Act” or “DIGITAL Applications Act” (Reps. Cammack and Matsui)
  • H.R. 3283, the “Facilitating the Deployment of Infrastructure with Greater Internet Transactions and Legacy Applications Act” or “Facilitating DIGITAL Applications Act” (Reps. Miller-Meeks and Dingell)
  • H.R. ___, the “Federal Broadband Deployment Tracking Act” (Reps. Pfluger and Soto)
  • H.R. ___, to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to extend the authority of the Federal Communications Commission to grant a license or construction permit through a system of competitive bidding (Rep. Rodgers)
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.