New bill would require FCC, NTIA to find more spectrum for wireless, both licensed and unlicensed

Lawmakers in the House are proposing legislation that would push the FCC to develop a plan to auction more government-held spectrum for commercial wireless use.

The draft bill, which is being circulated for discussion in the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology this week, does not name the specific spectrum bands that would be auctioned. However, the legislation, called the "Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015," asks the FCC to work with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) to create reports for the House and Senate. The reports would detail plans for rules and procedures to move federal users out the spectrum or share the airwaves with commercial users, according to Broadcasting & Cable. The legislation also calls on the FCC and NTIA to report on a timeline for competitive bidding and auctions.

Notably, the draft legislation says the FCC and NTIA must also report on balancing licensed and unlicensed spectrum, a topic that will likely become even more contentious as U.S. carriers deploy LTE-Unlicensed services.

As Broadcasting & Cable notes, the subcommittee is holding a hearing tomorrow on federal spectrum use and will discuss another piece of legislation, the "Federal Spectrum Incentive Act of 2015," which would provide incentives for government users to relinquish their spectrum so that it can be auctioned, and would let government agencies share in the auction proceeds. Under existing law, federal agencies can only be compensated for relocation and sharing costs from auction proceeds.

Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Science & Transportation will also hold a hearing tomorrow entitled "Removing Barriers to Wireless Broadband Deployment."

According to Broadcasting & Cable, the hearing is likely going to focus on several topics, including creating an inventory of government spectrum. Additionally, it will likely focus on where poles, conduits and rights of way exist for network deployments, as well as on so-called "dig once" initiatives for deploying fiber along highways at the same time as other utility installations.  

For more:
- see these two separate Broadcasting & Cable articles
- see this National Law Review article 

Related articles:
T-Mobile seen as winner in Sprint's decision to bow out of 600 MHz incentive auction
Report: Former FCC Commissioner McDowell expects legislation to free up more spectrum
FCC lays out 600 MHz auction roadmap, will kick off process in 'early fall'
NTIA: 245 MHz of spectrum freed so far for wireless, on track for 500 MHz by 2020
CTIA: It takes 13 years, on average, to reallocate spectrum for carriers