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New Bill Pushes to Open Government Spectrum to Expand 5G

March 11, 2024
The Spectrum Pipeline Act follows a year-long effort to develop legislation.

Senators Ted Cruz and John Thune unveiled legislation to allow the auctioning off of government-owned mid-band spectrum to companies for use in 5G expansion.

Ahead of the expiration of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) spectrum auction authority last March, the senators released a statement on the Spectrum Pipeline Act, saying they are “committing to developing a spectrum proposal that achieves the greatest value possible for American taxpayers while protecting our national security interests.”

Companies require radio spectrum to provide high-quality wireless service to consumers. Mid-band spectrum is particularly valuable, given its unique properties. The Spectrum Pipeline Act would significantly increase commercial access to mid-band spectrum.

“Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless communications,” said Sen. Thune. “This legislation restores the FCC’s auction authority, and, in doing so, it ensures that crucial mid-band spectrum is made available for commercial 5G and advanced Wi-Fi use, which is a win-win for American entrepreneurs and consumers. I look forward to working with Senator Cruz and my other colleagues to advance this important and much-needed legislation.”

What's in the bill?

The Spectrum Pipeline Act is outlined in the statement as follows:

  1. Requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to identify at least 2,500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum that can be reallocated from Federal use to non-Federal or shared use in the next 5 years (including at least 1,250 megahertz in the next 2 years).
  2. Renews the FCC’s auction authority, which expired in March 2023, and requires the FCC to auction at least 1,250 megahertz of spectrum for full-power commercial wireless services, including 5G, within 6 years (including at least 600 megahertz within 3 years).
  3. Expands the United States’ role by requiring the FCC to allocate at least 125 megahertz of additional spectrum for unlicensed services.
  4. Provides further opportunity in the remaining 1,125 megahertz of remaining spectrum identified by NTIA for commercial services.
  5. Requires the FCC and NTIA to submit to Congress annual progress reports as well as reports within 60 days of each identification made by NTIA.
  6. Removes a limitation in current law to allow federal agencies to purchase new equipment using spectrum auction proceeds.

To read the full text of the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024, click HERE.

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ISE Staff