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Spectrum Bill Recap: Now on to the Auction



WASHINGTON March 8th, 2012 – Last month Congress passed one of the more important pieces of legislation regarding the future of wireless access and innovation in our country. The bi partisan legislation has already garnered support from many of the stakeholders and parties involved. Given that we have not covered this legislation up to date, we are now providing a summary of it.

On February 17th Congress passed the “Payroll Tax Bill”, formerly titled the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act of 2012. While the primary focus of this bill is the payroll tax, there are three key provisions in it that are revolutionary for wireless networks in the United States. These provisions were inserted into the bill after the bi partisan wrangling over the payroll tax portion was over, as it became clear that it would pass.

In the first provision, the legislation authorizes an unprecedented release of spectrum through granting the Federal Communications Commission the authority to establish voluntary spectrum auctions for currently licensed, unassigned and government-owned spectrum. The second provision gives the FCC explicit authority to preserve unlicensed TV white spaces and to consolidate white space bands for unlicensed devices. The third provision creates a national interoperable public safety broadband network.

As a consequence of these provisions, there will be significant rectification of the national shortage of spectrum for broadband services. In order to achieve these goals, the legislation creates significant monetary incentives for spectrum rights holders and projects net profit of approximately $15 billion for the U.S. treasury.


In the first part of the auction process the FCC has three years to auction off up to 65MHz of spectrum from a series unassigned or government- owned bands.

The second phase of the auction seeks to auction off portions of spectrum bands currently licensed by the TV broadcasters. The legislation gives the FCC the authority to hold incentive auctions where broadcasters would receive payment in return for voluntarily giving up portions of their spectrum allocation. Through a process called a reverse auction, the FCC will receive bids from broadcasters stating the amount that they would accept for giving up the rights to their spectrum. The reverse auction is designed to keep the broadcaster’s asking price low. The FCC will then take the relinquished spectrum and auction it off in regular auction proceeding.

The law asks the FCC to use all reasonable measures to preserve existing coverage for different stations and prevents them from moving stations from UHF to VHF bands and vice versa. Additionally, the legislation has set aside a one-time $1.75 billion dollar fund to cover reallocation costs for stations that have given up spectrum.

Congress did not restrict the FCC’s ability to enforce conditions of net neutrality on new wireless spectrum licenses, a provision that was part of an earlier version of the legislation. They did, however, prohibit the FCC from setting pre-conditions, aside from the basic qualifications for participating, in the auction process. The law does, nevertheless, give the FCC broad authority to craft auction rules in the public interest. The FCC can make “rules of general applicability, including rules concerning spectrum aggregation that promote competition.” Essentially, this will enable them to place caps on the amount of spectrum any one entity could win.

Preserving Unlicensed Spectrum Uses

Unlike prior versions of the bill, the final version gives the FCC explicit authority to preserve unlicensed TV white spaces. Additionally, the FCC can consolidate white space bands for unlicensed devices to promote the most optimal use and create nationwide guard bands between licenses in order to promote innovation and investment in new wireless services.

Public Safety

The Legislation lays out the plan to construct the nation’s first ever public safety broadband network. The bill creates the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) which will receive $7 billion in auction revenue and licenses to use the “D Block” as well as adjacent spectrum to build a national interoperable broadband network for public safety personnel.

Congress inserted an opt out clause in the public safety portion of the bill for states that demonstrate their own ability to build a public safety network and connect it to the national network. To ensure interoperability of these networks, the bill creates an FCC technical advisory board to come up with interoperability standards. States that choose to build their own public safety networks can apply for grants if they can show that the networks meet the FCC’s interoperability standards.

As Deputy Editor, Chris Naoum is curating expert opinions, and writing and editing articles on Broadband Breakfast issue areas. Chris served as Policy Counsel for Future of Music Coalition, Legal Research Fellow for the Benton Foundation and law clerk for a media company, and previously worked as a legal clerk in the office of Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. He received his B.A. from Emory University and his J.D. and M.A. in Television Radio and Film Policy from Syracuse University.


Rosenworcel Proposes Funding Infrastructure and 911 Transition with Spectrum Auction Money

The FCC’s chairwoman spoke on the future of spectrum during a Tuesday CTIA event on 5G’s climate impacts.



Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel by T.J. York

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday proposed using funds raised in upcoming spectrum auctions held by the commission to fund infrastructure projects and the transition to a next-generation 911 system.

The proposal came as part of a list of potential future areas of focus on spectrum from the commission during Rosenworcel’s session at wireless trade association CTIA’s 2022 5G Summit focusing on 5G’s impacts on climate.

Rosenworcel has stated in the past that she would like spectrum auction proceeds to go towards updating the national 911 system.

Proposed upgrades include allowing 911 callers to send first responders photos, videos and text messages rather than just calls. A bill also exists in Congress to upgrade 911, the Next-Generation 911 Act, authorizing federal grants to go towards the upgrades.

In March the FCC announced that in July it would auction 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G services.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also speaking at Tuesday’s event, added to the calls for upgrades to the national 911 system.

Rosenworcel also spoke about the possibility of legislation targeting mid-band spectrum and development of next-gen wireless networks, work on updates to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act that governs allocation of spectrum to the commercial sector, as well as a greater focus on receiver performance and procurement practices rather than just examining transmitters.

She emphasized that the commission is always actively working on spectrum policy through the Affordable Connectivity Program, the freeing up of spectrum with a particular focus on mid band, advocating for a national spectrum plan, and broadband data collection via the provisions of the Broadband DATA Act. She stated that the commission is actively involved with National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson on freeing up spectrum.

Additional speakers at Tuesday’s event included director of the White House’s National Economic Council Brian Deese, who noted that in the coming weeks and months there will be many more announcements on broadband funding from the administration on money to come from new and existing sources, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

Guthrie voiced frustration with government agencies not designated authority on spectrum over the role they took in public debates on spectrum policy, largely related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s influence over cellular providers to make concessions on their rollout of 5G over safety concerns earlier this year.

“And we must always continue to address inter-agency coordination issues,” said Guthrie.

He stated the necessity of these agencies communicating concerns to the NTIA and FCC rather than directly involving themselves in policy discussions.

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In a Move to Aid Spectrum Efficiency, FCC Begins Inquiry on Receiver Interference Standards

The FCC makes advancements towards more efficient spectrum use throughout the country.



Photo of Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Kathleen Burke from the advocacy group

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2022 — The Federal Communication Commission on Thursday voted to press forward on a proceeding designed to make spectrum transmissions in the United States much more efficient.

“By enabling more efficient use will facilitate the introduction of new and innovative wireless services that will benefit the American public,” said Paul Murray, associate chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology at the FCC, who introduced an inquiry titled, “Promoting Efficient Use of Spectrum through Improved Receiver Interference Immunity Performance.”

Receiver interference immunity performance refers to the ability of a radiofrequency receiver (as opposed to a transmitter) to reject interference. Typically, the agency focuses its rules on the transmitter side of radio systems.

But, the FCC said, “receivers and receiver interference immunity performance play an increasingly critical role in enabling more efficient spectrum use,” age agency noted in its fact sheet circulated prior to the meeting.

In it, the FCC highlighted how, increasingly, “the receiver interference immunity performance associated with incumbent services operating in spectral proximity to new users or services has been a major consideration.”

For example, the ability of incumbent service receivers to reject signals outside their intended band has been relevant to the timing and scope of the introduction of new services, such as the Ligado and the 3.7 GigaHertz (GHz) band proceedings, the agency noted. There, the FCC adopted operating conditions and rules to enable the introduction of new operations into frequency bands with various incumbent users operating under different service allocations in the same band, adjacent band, or other spectrally proximate frequency bands.

“If our telecommunications system is going to meet the modern needs of our nation, every aspect needs to operate efficiently,” said Kathleen Burke, policy counsel at Public Knowledge. She endorsed the agency’s beginning the proceeding.

Emergency alerts strengthened

During the meeting the commission also approved for the public to comment on proposals that will strengthen wireless emergency alerts. “This pandemic has made crystal clear how important it is to have good data in an emergency.   Accurate information is essential if we want to know what we need to do next.  That is also true with Wireless Emergency Alerts.  If we want to know where to go with this system next, we need to better understand it. That is why today we seek comments on how we can develop better data about the effectiveness of Wireless Emergency Alerts,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

Rosenworcel also that Chief of Staff Travis Litman will be leaving the office and will be replaced by Narda Jones.

“We also welcome the uncommonly talented Narda Jones to the agency. She’s my new chief of staff,” Rosenworcel said. She comes to us from the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.”

The FCC’s next Open Commission Meeting will be held on May 19.

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FCC Will Auction Slices of Mid-Band 2.5 GHz Spectrum for 5G in Late July

The slices of 2.5 GHz mid-band will be licenses for flexible use, including for 5G.



Photo of Jessica Rosenworcel
Photo of Jessica Rosenworcel in 2018

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday it will hold an auction of 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G wireless services on July 29, 2022.

The FCC said in a press release it has adopted application and bidding procedures for a slice of the band, which will be licensed on a flexible-use basis following “substantial public comment on various process proposals under consideration.”

During her speech to Mobile World Congress, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, “this is the single largest swath of contiguous mid-band spectrum we have below 3 gigahertz and the airwaves available in this auction are going to help extend 5G service beyond our most populated areas.”

In the same announcement, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and the Office of Economics and Analytics announced the launch of a mapping tool that can be used to help assess whether and to what extent there is unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum available in any county nationwide.

The FCC is simultaneously working on improving mapping to determine areas without adequate coverage. Expert witnesses discussed the lack of accurate broadband maps and the importance of crowdsourcing for accurate maps during a congressional hearing about 5G and the future in wireless technologies on Thursday.

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