Wireless operators both large and regional are happy that a group of senators re-introduced the Wireless Innovation Act of 2015, with both CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) issuing statements of support.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) re-introduced the act, which reallocates federal spectrum for commercial use--something carriers of all sizes can get behind.
"I thank Senators Rubio, Wicker, Ayotte, Gardner and Johnson for their focus on these important issues and for understanding the need to ensure wireless carriers have access to as much spectrum as possible," said CCA President and CEO Steven K. Berry in a statement. "CCA fully supports working with federal users to free up as much spectrum as possible and maximize the use of this limited resource."
"By creating a spectrum pipeline and encouraging more transparency and efficiency among federal spectrum users, this forward-looking legislation sets the stage for bringing additional--and much-needed--spectrum to market and spurring investment and economic growth," said Jot Carpenter, CTIA vice president of government affairs, in his statement.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is also throwing support behind the effort, with CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro issuing a statement about how it's an important step to "ensure our commercial supply of spectrum can meet consumer demand. By reallocating underutilized government spectrum for commercial use, this bill will provide new ways to meet our ever-growing demand for 'anytime/anywhere' connectivity."
Earlier versions of the legislation were met with criticism from transportation officials who said it would take spectrum away from technologies designed to improve road safety. In February of this year, FCC commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel penned a blog that said while they bolster safety initiatives supported by dedicated short range communications service (DSRC) systems, the spectrum set aside for those initiatives sat idle for too long.
"We believe it is time to take a modern look at the service possibilities in these airwaves," the commissioners said in their blog. "In other words, it is time for the Commission to develop a compromise that allows both unlicensed and DSRC use in the U-NII-4 band."
According to a press release, the Wireless Innovation Act of 2015 would:
- Require NTIA to identify and reallocate 200 MHz of spectrum below 5 GHz that is currently allocated primarily to the federal government for commercial mobile use (140 MHz for licensed use; 40 MHz for shared; 20 MHz for unlicensed use);
- Establish an auction pipeline to ensure the 200 MHz of spectrum identified by NTIA is reallocated in a clear, predictable manner;
- Allocate portions of the auction proceeds to federal entities for conducting research and development and other engineering activities to:
- Identify alternative spectrum (either federal or non-federal) that existing systems can be relocated to,
- Develop technologies that will allow existing systems to be relocated and shared with other federal systems, and
- Develop cost and time estimates for relocating existing systems;
- Require Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report to Congress details of how agencies are using these funds so Congress knows how agencies are utilizing the funds and what bands agencies are considering for potential use;
- Promote secondary spectrum markets by expediting the FCC review period for routine license transfers;
- Require OMB to review agency requests for new or modified frequency assignments for a wireless service by requiring agencies to submit an analysis addressing issues including whether commercial services could be used instead of new or modified frequencies, whether other Federal spectrum could be used or shared, and whether the service requires frequency below 3 GHz;
- Provide transparency on the use and value of federal spectrum by requiring NTIA to develop a framework to determine the commercial value of each federal spectrum band, and requiring federal agencies to report the opportunity cost borne for each spectrum band that is entirely under the control of that agency as part of its budget; and
- Promote the deployment of wireless infrastructure on federally owned buildings and property by streamlining the process by creating a standard fee and master application to grant real property interests.
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