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Congressional Committee Approves Expanding FCC Spectrum Auction Authority

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(Image credit: USGS.gov)

WASHINGTON—A Congressional committee this week approved the expansion of the FCC’s general auction authority in order to allow the commission to auction off spectrum for a Next Generation 9-1-1 initiative. 

The 52-0 vote by the House Energy and Commerce Committee moves the “Spectrum Innovation Act of 2022 (H.R. 7624) to a Congressional vote and is expected to pass. The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), would make available additional frequencies in the 3.1–3.45 gigahertz band for non-federal use, shared federal and non-federal use, or a combination thereof. 

The legislation also funds the Secure and Trusted Reimbursement Program and a newly authorized Next Generation 9-1-1 grant program from the proceeds of the auction required under the legislation. A bipartisan amendment incorporating H.R. 7783, the "Extending American’s Spectrum Action Leadership Act of 2022,” extends the FCC’s general auction authority for an additional 18 months, to March 31, 2024.

The committee vote comes nearly a month after the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology  recommended funding the Next Generation 9-1-1 program to the tune of $10 billion. The funds (among other things) would go towards upgrading 9-1-1 call centers nationwide and authorize the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to identify at least 200 MHz in the spectrum band to be auctioned off and alloted for Next Generation 9-1-1 within two years after the legislation’s expected passage.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) commented on the bill, which was one of five pieces of legislation passed by the committee, which also included bills covering health care.  

“Today, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed five bipartisan bills that taken together will strengthen our nation’s communication networks and improve access to health care,” said “The four telecommunication bills leverage our networks to help keep people safe, bolster service affordability programs, and improve the federal use and auction of our nation’s airwaves. “The health bill will ensure access to medically necessary care for Medicare patients with Lymphedema.  I thank members for their hard work on these bills and look forward to continuing to work together to bring them to the House floor.”

Tom Butts
Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.