Energy Committee Approves FCC Reauthorization, Wireless Spectrum Bill
Friday, March 02, 2018 | Comments

House Energy and Commerce Committee members announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation reauthorizing the FCC and spurring the deployment of next-generation wireless services. The legislation, RAY BAUM’S Act (H.R. 4986), will be voted on in the House of Representatives March 6.

“This legislation, combining provisions that have previously passed both the House and Senate, does what no legislation has done in 28 years — it reauthorizes the FCC and includes provisions that help make sure that the commission is transparent, efficient and ready for the 21st century communications landscape,” said a statement. “This bipartisan, bicameral product puts consumers first and solidifies the nation’s critical telecommunications infrastructure, giving the U.S. a global edge in the race to 5G and improving internet services across the country. Importantly, it includes spectrum legislation that passed the Senate unanimously last year and authorizes reimbursement for broadcasters who were displaced in the successful incentive auctions.”

The Energy and Commerce Committee approved an earlier version of H.R. 4986 by voice vote last month. The Senate Commerce Committee passed its own bipartisan FCC reauthorization bill last Congress.

The legislation to be considered next week would:
• Reauthorize the FCC and include reforms to ensure the commission continues to improve its efficiency and transparency.
• Enact key provisions from the Senate-approved MOBILE NOW Act (S. 19) to boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by identifying more licensed and unlicensed spectrum for private sector use and reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.
• Authorize a repack fund to address the shortfall in funding available to relocate broadcasters being displaced following the incentive auction, and set up new relocation funds for translators, low-power TV and radio stations that will be impacted by the repack — supplemented by a consumer education fund.
• Include a spectrum auction deposit “fix” that allows the FCC to deposit upfront payments from spectrum bidders directly with the U.S. Treasury.
• Direct the FCC to craft a national policy for unlicensed spectrum that includes certain specific considerations and recommendations.
• Advance proposals that would help the FCC and law enforcement protect consumers from fraudulent telephone calls and educate Americans about their options to stop these illegal calls.

The bill is named for former Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, a champion of telecommunications policy, who died in February.

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