Wicker, Thune Introduce C-Band Bill

The Republican leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee has come out strongly in favor of the FCC auctioning C-band spectrum, which works out since their proposed bill came out the same day FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he is proposing to auction that spectrum.  

Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, have introduced the 5G Spectrum Act. 

The FCC had already said it planned to free up as much C-band spectrum as possible to turn over to carriers for 5G, but the senators want to make sure the framework jibes with their own, which would:  

"Provide the coverage and capacity essential for deployment in America’s rural communities. 

"Require the FCC to conduct a public auction of C band spectrum.

"Require the auction to start no later than December 31, 2020.

"Require the FCC to make available at least 280 MHz of spectrum.

"Require the FCC to capture for the taxpayer at least 50 percent of the fair market value of the spectrum.

Related: FCC's Pai: U.S. Will Lead Way in 5G Deployment

Pai's announced proposal would check at least three of those boxes: 1) public auction, 2) of 280 MHz of spectrum, 3) by the end of 2020.  

It must still be voted, but the chairman would not likely have announced his plan--via Twitter--had he not had at least two other commissioners on board.

Competitive Carriers Association President Steven K. Berry liked what he saw in the Wicker-Thune bill, though at press time he had not commented on the Pai proposal.

“The 5G Spectrum Act clearly has the public interest in mind by ensuring at least fifty percent of the auction proceeds are reserved for American taxpayers," he said. "The C-band spectrum is a taxpayer-owned resource, and it only makes sense that a significant portion of the proceeds benefit the U.S. Treasury or are otherwise used as directed by Congress. It is a good day for consumers, competition and the economy, and I thank Senators Wicker and Thune for their work on this important issue.”

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.