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Senate Commerce to Kick Tires on MOBILE NOW

The Senate Commerce Committee is wasting no time in taking up the MOBILE NOW Act, which would put government agencies on a timetable to provide spectrum for commercial broadband.

The committee has scheduled a markup--a meeting to debate and amend bills--for Nov. 18, and the spectrum bill leads the list.

Look for the MOBILE ACT draft to be updated, according to the committee's notice, a point a committee source also made to B&C/Multichannel News when the draft was first circulated.

The draft, which was circulated last weekend, would flesh out the Spectrum Pipeline Act, a bill that was passed by the House, then the Senate as an amendment to the omnibus budget bill.

It would require the government to free up 50 MHz of federal spectrum for broadband, rather than the 30 MHz in the Spectrum Pipeline Act.

The spectrum would have to be auctioned by 2020.

The Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (MOBILE NOW) Act would codify that the 500 MHz the President has directed the government to free up by 2020 would still happen under a new President.

Among other things, the bill would 1) allow for leasing, rather than auctioning, federal spectrum, in some circumstances; 2) put shot clocks on federal agency permission to private entities to use federal lands for broadband facilities including towers and antennas; 3) and potentially include a "dig once" provision that would require broadband conduit to be deployed during "below-ground" infrastructure work. That would expand the pipeline bill's "dig once" provision, which requires that conduit when federal highway funds are use for road projects.

INCOMPAS (formerly COMPTEL) liked the sound of lowering barriers to broadband deployment. "Increasing the availability of spectrum, licensed and unlicensed, along with much needed siting reforms, are an important barrier breaker that will unleash more broadband choices, innovation and investment to communities across the nation," said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering.