Rubio introduces legislation to free up federal spectrum for commercial use

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he will soon introduce legislation to reallocate up to 200 MHz of spectrum held by the government for commercial wireless use, establish a new spectrum auctions starting in 2018, and make it easier for federal agencies to relinquish their airwaves.

Rubio also intends to introduce legislation geared toward allowing Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band, as long as it does not interfere with vehicle-to-vehicle communications. The senator is also planning legislation to promote the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

"Our world has gone wireless, and it did not take long to occur," he said in a speech Wednesday, according to The Hill. "That is why I am proposing a wireless innovation agenda with ideas that I believe will ensure the United States is prepared to face the wireless future--an agenda to ensure that Americans can participate in the wireless economy and take advantage of wireless technology to improve their economic well-being."

The main spectrum bill, which will be called the Wireless Innovation Act, will do several things to get more spectrum to carriers. According to Broadcasting & Cable, Rubio's spectrum bill would reallocate 200 MHz of government spectrum for commercial use, and set up an "auction pipeline" with staggered auctions starting in 2018. The bill also incentivizes federal agencies to reallocate spectrum by allowing portions of the proceeds of the auction of the airwaves to be used on research and development. Further, the bill requires the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to develop a framework to determine the commercial value of spectrum held by federal agencies.

The FCC is already planning to auction AWS-3 spectrum this fall, which involves the Department of Dense giving up a part of the spectrum that will be auctioned, the 1755-1780 MHz band. The FCC is also planning an incentive auction of 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum next year.

Not surprisingly, Rubio's announcement drew praise from CTIA. "We're excited Senator Rubio is so committed to encouraging continued growth and innovation in the wireless ecosystem. Forward-looking spectrum policy like this bill will encourage investment and economic growth, while helping the wireless industry to stay ahead of consumers' continued demand for mobile broadband," Jot Carpenter, CTIA's vice president of government affairs, said in a statement.

Competitive Carriers Association President Steve Berry was also effusive in his praise: "Having a pipeline of future spectrum auctions will only help open up secondary markets for competitive carriers and will provide additional opportunities for carriers to gain access to this much needed resource. More spectrum means more opportunity for competition and better services for public safety and consumers. I thank Senator Rubio for his focus on spectrum issues and look forward to working with all policymakers on this very important issue."

The Wi-Fi bill would establish a timeline for the FCC to decide on whether to allow Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band, but would seek to ensure that such operations do not cause harmful interference to spectrum allocated for V2V communications that car makers want to use.

Rubio also wants to make it easier for infrastructure to get deployed. "Government at all levels should not be a barrier to deployment," he said. "Confusing statutes and outdated local rules and regulations should not stand in the way of deploying infrastructure or modifying wireless facilities." The bill will seek to speed infrastructure deployment by creating the policies to ensure federal land can be appropriately used for such buildouts.

The infrastructure part of his wireless package drew applause from PCIA President Jonathan Adelstein. "With today's announcement, Senator Rubio is demonstrating urgently needed leadership in fostering innovation and helping to meet consumers' burgeoning demand for wireless data," Adelstein said in a statement. "Senator Rubio places his name atop a growing list of policymakers that support clearing hurdles to deployment of wireless broadband."

For more:
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article
- see this The Hill article

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