By Rich Sill
The House Energy and Commerce held a hearing on May 24 on how to strengthen the United States’s communication networks. One of the bills discussed was the Extending America’s Spectrum Auction Leadership Act of 2022 (H.R. 7783), which would extend the FCC’s spectrum auction authority through March 2024. The agency’s auction authority is currently set to expire September 30th of this year, so it is vital that Congress votes to pass H.R. 7783 to continue investment and innovation necessary to close the digital divide.
Since being introduced in 1993, auctions have granted spectrum licenses to the commercial wireless industry and have been a win-win for America’s wireless consumers, wireless providers, and federal agencies. Since their inception, spectrum auctions have raised over $230 billion for the Treasury
department, thus funding several of the government’s priorities while not having to raise taxes on the American people. In 2016, the wireless industry contributed over $475 billion to the U.S. economy, supporting 4.7 million jobs and providing over 300 million Americans with reliable spectrum. Because of the FCC’s auctions, spectrum distribution is fast, efficient, and economically rational. This continued process is vital for innovation, investment and international competition.
According to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), there is bipartisan support extending the FCC’s auction authority through March 2024. Likewise, according to Congressman Bob Latta (R-Ohio), extending the agency’s authority now would give the agency time to properly execute the 2.5 GHz auction and begin the process for the upcoming 3.5 GHz auction. But being that government is usually slow with getting important things done, Congress needs to reauthorize the FCC’s auction authority as soon as possible.
Extending the FCC’s auction authority is also vital to ensure that the United States stays ahead of the 5G race and prepared for 6G. According to Congressman Latta, “If we fail to address these reforms, this committee will miss an opportunity to strengthen American leadership in next-gen communications technology.” In a time in which the country cannot risk falling behind other countries in technology, investment, and innovation, it is ever more important that the FCC’s spectrum auction authority is extended.
Spectrum auctions are the best tools used to provide millions of people with fast and reliable spectrum, create millions of spectrum deployment jobs, and bring in billions of dollars of revenue to close the digital divide. Congress is in the right direction to extend the FCC’s spectrum auction authority due to the widespread bipartisan support to do so, but there is still no time to waste.