Senate Commerce Approves Ross Nomination

The Senate Commerce Committee has favorably reported out the MOBILE Now Act, which promotes freeing up unlicensed spectrum for wireless, and the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act, which consolidates eight FCC reports into a single survey of marketplace competitiveness.

Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross was also favorably reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday by unanimous voice vote.

Committee chairman John Thune called those and other bills on the docket—which had been introduced in previous Congresses but had not made it into a law—a "clean-up" agenda before the committee starts tackling new legislation.

The bills now head to the Senate floor. The House Monday (Jan. 23) passed its version of the FCC consolidated reports bill.

Also reported favorably to the full senate was the DIGIT Act.

The bill, which was introduced in the last Congress, would "convene a working group of federal entities that would consult with private sector stakeholders to provide recommendations to Congress." Those would include how to encourage the growth of IoT, seeking input from the private sector to help prevent "regulatory silos."

It would also direct the FCC to launch a proceeding on the spectrum needs of IoT.

"I’m pleased that the Committee advanced the MOBILE NOW Act to support 5G spectrum and streamlined deployment, especially in rural and hard-to-reach areas, including federal lands," said Competitive Carriers Association President Steven K. Berry following the Committee's executive meeting.

"The MOBILE NOW Act will help our future by allocating additional spectrum for commercial use by 2020," said Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro. This will create better mobile broadband for consumers and is critical to the success of future innovations, including the development of the next generation of cellular 5G technologies.  

“The MOBILE NOW Act promotes the efficient use of Federal spectrum, while freeing up significant bandwidth for both commercial licensed and unlicensed use," said Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at Public Knowledge. "The bill’s unanimous advancement further demonstrates the overwhelming consensus that unlicensed spectrum and democratized access to the public airwaves are key drivers to economic growth and innovation."

“Particularly as our nation looks to promote advanced communications, it will become more critical than ever to ensure the availability of sufficient spectrum and facilitate the ability to install robust wireline and wireless facilities capable of handling the vastly increased consumer demands that such services enable,” said NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association chief executive Shirley Bloomfield. “Therefore, NTCA applauds the aim of MOBILE NOW to streamline the deployment of communications facilities and expand the definition of the types of infrastructure covered by the streamlined process."

Ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he and his Democratic colleagues will unveil a "robust blueprint to rebuild America's infrastructure proposal at noon Tuesday. He said it would invest a trillion dollars and create 15 million jobs. It will almost certainly also include a broadband component.

President Donald Trump has said he wants to invest a trillion dollars in an infrastructure remake.

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.