Matsui, Guthrie Introduce the SPECTRUM NOW Act

Legislation would accelerate work to free up spectrum held by government agencies

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Washington, June 6, 2018 | comments

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06) and Congressman Brett Guthrie (KY-02), co-chairs of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, today introduced the “SPECTRUM NOW Act”, which would enable government agencies to improve their spectral efficiency and effectiveness and make more spectrum available for commercial wireless use. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-HI) and introduced companion legislation today in the Senate.

“An adequate supply and pipeline of spectrum is necessary to meet the wireless data needs of next generation broadband networks,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “This bill makes it possible for federal agencies to more efficiently and innovatively use spectrum and, in turn, provide new opportunities for spectrum to be repurposed for commercial use. Without this legislation, agencies ready to study the possibility of  relocating or sharing spectrum with non-federal users could be prevented from doing so. I’m pleased to work with Congressman Guthrie on this and other efforts to improve spectrum access and efficiency for both federal and non-federal users.”

“Freeing up spectrum is key to furthering innovation and increasing high-speed internet access across the country,” said Congressman Guthrie. “As the largest collective holder of spectrum licenses, unfortunately federal agencies have been unable to adequately study the feasibility of moving or sharing their spectrum. The SPECTRUM NOW Act follows legislation that Congresswoman Matsui and I have introduced in the past to provide incentives for federal agencies to free up their underused spectrum holdings, allowing for greater commercial opportunities. I’m pleased to work with Congresswoman Matsui again on spectrum legislation, and I look forward to seeing how this bill helps open the door for new development and innovation in the private sector.”

Specifically, The SPECTRUM NOW Act builds on the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015, which created a process to allow federal agencies to access resources necessary for research and development, engineering studies, economic analyses, and other planning activities that could lead to repurposing or sharing federally held spectrum for commercial wireless broadband use. However, current law limits the resources within the Spectrum Relocation Fund (SRF) that these federal agencies can actually access for this research and planning.

The SPECTRUM NOW Act allows agencies that have submitted a plan to study the possibility of increasing their spectrum efficiency and relocating or sharing their spectrum with commercial users to access existing SRF funds that they currently cannot. Without this fix, federal agencies that have currently identified spectrum that could be repurposed would be unable to conduct the engineering research that could actually allow that spectrum to enter the commercial marketplace.

Matsui and Guthrie have been leaders on spectrum policy in Congress, which recently passed their Spectrum Auction Deposits Act as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018.  

Text of the legislation can be found here.

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