Sunday, July 21, 2024

House passes Kennedy bill to require FCC to expand 5G access to rural Americans by releasing previously auctioned spectrum

by BIZ Magazine

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives today passed Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) 5G Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement (SALE) Act. The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release previously auctioned spectrum in order to expand broadband access to rural communities. 

“I’m thankful that the House has sent this bill to the president’s desk so that the job providers who depend on wireless communications in Louisiana and across America can continue to support rural economies. My 5G SALE Act provides Americans with access to broadband by giving the FCC the authority to finish transferring previously auctioned spectrum to companies that offer 5G coverage,” said Kennedy. 

The Senate passed Kennedy’s legislation this September.

The 5G SALE Act would temporarily grant the FCC auction authority it needs to complete spectrum transfers, which would allow broadband services to provide greater 5G network coverage to Americans in rural areas.

In 2022, the FCC auctioned off roughly 8,000 licenses to grant companies access to America’s broadband spectrum. These licenses are the only way companies can legally use the radio waves that deliver 5G to customers. These wavelengths are therefore highly valuable.

During the period between when companies paid for their licenses and when the FCC should have parceled the licenses out, Congress failed to reauthorize the FCC’s ability to auction off licenses altogether. Now, each company that bought spectrum in that auction is waiting to receive its transfer. Despite payments being complete, the FCC says it no longer has the authority to grant those licenses. 

Kennedy’s legislation would grant the FCC a one-time, temporary authority to issue licenses purchased in auctions that were held before March 9, 2023 (when the FCC’s Congressional authorization ended).

Kennedy questioned FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing about the commission’s lapsed authority to transfer spectrum licenses already sold at auction.

Full text of the 5G SALE Act is available here.

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