Skip to main content

Mobile Now Act Unanimous Consent Passage Request Postponed

The effort by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to pass the Mobile Now Act by unanimous consent (UC), or at least to make the senator blocking it own that process, has been postponed.

There is a hold on the bill -- it takes only one senator to place a hold -- and by making the UC request, the member, or at least a member, would have to stand up and object to passage to continue the hold.

Thune had planned to take the floor Wednesday (Sept. 21) and call for that vote, but his office said the request was postponed.

The Mobile Now Act would take numerous steps to boost wireless broadband, including licensed and unlicensed. It passed unanimously out of the Senate Commerce Committee in March loaded with amendments on everything from shot-clocks for approving facilities to dig-once policies for combining road projects and telecom plant, to a contest offering up to $5 million for the first person to come up with a way to boost spectrum efficiency.

The bipartisan bill, which specifically targets the buildout of 5G mobile broadband, was the result of months of negotiations.

“The committee’s advancement of the Mobile Now Act was truly a bipartisan effort,” Thune said following the markup. “Enactment of this legislation will pave the way to a 5G future where Americans have access to ultra-fast, next-generation wireless technology.”

Included in the bill was an amendment backed by, among others, wireless broadband spectrum fan Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would ensure at least 100 MHz of the spectrum being freed up would go for unlicensed use and another 100 MHz for commercial mobile service, with a handwritten addition to the amendment saying that commercial use was "subject to the [FCC's] regulatory purview to implement exclusive licensing in a flexible manner, including consideration of continued use of such spectrum by incumbent federal or non-federal entities in designated geographic areas indefinitely."

Among the reasons for the tough negotiations on the bill were the tensions between licensed and unlicensed, as well as commercial and incumbent government users of the spectrum. Ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he thought the bill had struck the right balance among those.

Not included in the bill was a last-minute amendment that would have helped broadcasters in the post-incentive auction repack and an FCC process reform bill amendment from Sen. Den Heller.

Also not included was a bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, that would direct the FCC to identify the spectrum requirements for the growing Internet of things (IoT) and study the impacts of connected technologies

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.