Monday, April 15, 2024

President signs into law Kennedy bill to require FCC to expand 5G access to rural Americans by releasing previously auctioned spectrum

by BIZ Magazine
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MADISONVILLE, La. – President Joe Biden signed Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) 5G Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement (SALE) Act into law. The legislation will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release previously auctioned spectrum to expand 5G broadband access to rural communities. 

“Louisiana’s job providers depend on wireless communications as they support rural economies. My 5G SALE Act will provide crucial broadband access by giving the FCC the authority to finish transferring previously auctioned spectrum to companies that offer 5G coverage. I’m grateful to see my bill signed into law so that more Americans have the tools they need to do their jobs and grow their businesses,” said Kennedy. 

The Senate passed Kennedy’s legislation this September, and the House of Representatives passed Kennedy’s legislation earlier this December.

The 5G SALE Act will temporarily grant the FCC auction authority it needs to complete spectrum transfers, which will 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. The FCC left each company that bought spectrum in that auction waiting to receive its transfer. Despite payments being complete, the FCC said it no longer had the authority to grant those licenses. 

Kennedy’s legislation granted 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).

Prior to the bill’s passage, 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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