Senate Committee urges FCC to free up government spectrum for auction

The Senate Commerce Committee has sent a letter to government agencies urging that the 1755MHz to 1780MHz spectrum currently being used by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies with the AWS-3 band for the spectrum auction should be made available for sale to the public.

These two blocks of spectrum, the committee said, would “yield substantially greater auction revenues than if those bands were auctioned separately.”

In a letter dated August 1 and signed by the entire Senate committee, the legislators told the FCC, the Department of Defense and the Commerce Department that the action would increase funding for FirstNet, the government’s proposed first responder network and a project advocated by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Citing the need to strengthen both the economy and national security, the committee members said they had learned in classified briefings and hearings that the paired spectrum would be more valuable and generate higher income at auction than if it is auctioned separately.

“It also would bring our national spectrum policy in line with 17 of the G-20 countries who already have allocated these two paired bands for commercial use,” the members wrote.

Because there are upcoming deadlines associated with each band of spectrum, the committee urged quick action by all parties.

“Time is of the essence, and a sense of urgency is required if we are to capitalize on this opportunity to maximize revenue,” the committee members said.

The members said that now that concrete plans are on the table, “tough decision must be made quickly.” The Department of Defense, which currently occupies the 1755-1780 band, will need to provide necessary clarifications and explanations regarding its spectrum, as will the Commerce Department.

The committee, headed by Rockefeller, has asked for a plan as soon as possible and for regular updates on progress.