A bipartisan, bicameral quartet of senate leaders has introduced the Supplementing the Pipeline for Efficient Control of The Resources for Users Making New Opportunities for Wireless (SPECTRUM NOW) Act to accelerate the repurposing of spectrum for 5G, specifically by freeing up more midband spectrum. 

Teaming up on the omnibus bill are Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Commerce Committee; Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Commerce Committee; Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), vice chair of the Communications Subcommittee; and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.). 

The bill does not force government users to be more efficient spectrum users, but "creates a pathway for agencies to modify their operations on federally held spectrum to make those frequencies available for commercial wireless broadband use." 

The 2015 Spectrum Pipeline Act increased what can be supported by the Spectrum Relocation Fund (SRF), but still limits what can be accessed for research. The new bill allows agencies to tap into SRF funds to study increasing spectrum efficiency so it can be freed up for commercial use. 

The bill highlights, according to the legislators, are that it: 

  • "Improves Federal agencies’ ability to study making spectrum available for commercial wireless use. 
  • "Requires a plan be submitted to repurpose the 3450 MHz–3550 MHz band for commercial wireless use. This band is adjacent to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, which is expected to be auctioned next year.   
  • "Creates a timeline for formal identification and auction of the 3450 MHz–3550 MHz band, provided the study required by the SPECTRUM NOW Act determines it can be made available for commercial use. 
  • "Requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to consult with the Federal Communications Commission and the relevant federal agency on whether spectrum subject to a plan could be made available on an unlicensed basis, if a study reveals it could not be made available for auction on a licensed basis. 
  • "Updates an annual report by NTIA on the implementation of relocation or sharing arrangements of federal spectrum." 

“NCTA welcomes the bipartisan, bicameral introduction of SPECTRUM NOW by Senators Wicker and Schatz and Representatives Matsui and Guthrie," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "Importantly, the bill sets up a process to consider unlicensed sharing in specific federal spectrum bands that cannot be auctioned. NCTA applauds this approach, which could help ensure that our nation’s spectrum resources are put to their highest and best use.”

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