House Lawmakers Tee Up Spectrum Sharing Bill

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Tim McElgunn

Oct. 5 — The Federal Communications Commission would be required to propose a plan to lawmakers for repurposing or sharing spectrum now being used by federal agencies, under draft legislation scheduled for discussion at a HouseEnergy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Oct. 7.

Reallocating spectrum currebtly in government hands or sharing that spectrum are the two main strategies for freeing upsome of those airwaves for commercial wireless purposes.

“Congress has long expressed its preference for reallocation, as the resulting licenses are better suited to commercial use and typically result in higher auction proceeds for the Treasury,” according to a staff memorandum prepared for the Communications and Technology subcommittee hearing.

The draft legislation, dubbed the Spectrum Pipeline Act, would build on the 2010 National Broadband Plan, which called for clearing 300 MHz of federal spectrum between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz by the end of this year and a total of 500 MHz of spectrum by the end of 2020. Congress passed legislation in 2012 adding requirements for the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to investigate the potential for increased unlicensed use of thespectrum in the 5 GHz band, and instructing the FCC and NTIA to examine whether and how to facilitate co-existence among new and incumbent users to allow the various systems in the band to operate without harmful interference.

The subcommittee also plans to consider H.R. 1641, the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act of 2015, which would go beyond reimbursing federal agencies for the costs incurred to relocate or prepare spectrum for sharing. The bill, co-sponsored by representatives Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Doris Matsui (D-Ca.), would amend the Commercial SpectrumEnhancement Act of 2004 (CSEA) to allow those entities to receive additional compensation for relinquishing spectrumfor commercial use, including to offset the budgetary impact of sequestration.

The subcommittee plans to hear testimony from Phillip Berenbroick, government affairs counsel at Public Knowledge; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University professor Jeffrey H. Reed; and Dennis A. Roberson, a computer science professor from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing the same day on wireless broadband deployment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim McElgunn in Cherry Hill, NJ at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at