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In Law More Than a Year, MOBILE Now Advocates Say Act Requires Further Implementation for 5G Deployment

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Photo of John Thune in January 2012 by Ed Demaria/Medill News Service used with permission

WASHINGTON, December 6, 2019 – Even though the so-called MOBILE NOW law has been effect since March 2018, former Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., highlighted ongoing implementation needs at a Thursday hearing.

Dubbed the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act, MOBILE NOW is designed to ensure that the market has access to both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, Thune said.

Under the law, Thune continued, 255 megahertz of spectrum were identified for mobile and fixed wireless use. MOBILE NOW also directed the Federal Communications Commission to evaluate commercial wireless use in mid-band spectrum.

The purpose of this hearing, said Thune, was to determine how MOBILE NOW’s provisions can quicken the deployment of 5G wireless services.

Lawmakers continue to say that they want ubiquitous broadband services and next-generation 911 infrastructure, said Ranking Member Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. Yet Congress has not found the right funding mechanisms or economic incentives to achieve these goals.

Unlicensed spectrum must be an essential aspect of spectrum policy, Schatz said. Without accommodating unlicensed spectrum, 5G wireless speeds will only be available to a select number of people with an expensive data plan.

Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., touted the bipartisan MOBILE NOW law as building the foundation for 5G service. He said that the 5G Spectrum Act, a new bill introduced in November 2019 by Wicker that would require the FCC to conduct a public auction of C-Band spectrum, would put the United States on the most efficient path to win the 5G race.

Witnesses largely tout effects of MOBILE NOW, emphasize importance of 5G networks

The witnesses in attendance consisted of several policy analysts of technology and wireless communications. New America’s Open Technology Institute Director Sarah Morris encouraged the Subcommittee to recognize that while 5G networks are important, many Americans are still struggling without basic broadband.

Mobile networks, she said, are not a substitute for the fixed networks required to operate them. The MOBILE NOW Act can help foster stronger Wi-Fi connectivity, which in turn can expand 5G services for all users.

Paul Tenhaken, mayor of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said that cities in the Midwest and rural areas have the most to gain from rapidly expanding digital infrastructure. In November, Sioux Falls was one of the first mid-market cities to activate several small-cell towers in its downtown core.

In such cities, Tenhaken said, the fifth generation of mobile infrastructure is a necessity, not just a “nice to have” asset. The MOBILE NOW Act and the 5G Spectrum Act are a step in the right direction to communities, consumers and carriers. Furthermore, he added, this legislation can help remove unnecessary entry barriers to the 5G community.

Wireless Infrastructure Association CEO Jonathan Adelstein also praised the provisions of MOBILE NOW, which required the FCC and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to jointly determine determine how to effectively share spectrum between federal and non-federal users.

MOBILE NOW is also combatting unharmonized spectrum application forms across different agencies, Adelstein continued. The NTIA is working on a common application form to bring more transparency to streamlining infrastructure.

Yet the wireless industry still needs to meet growing demands for broadband data, he said. In order to meet the challenges of 5G, Congress should focus on developing the workforce, so that they are properly trained to deploy these networks.

The MOBILE NOW Act can help facilitate an all-of-the-above approach to spectrum strategy, said Scott Bergmann, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at CTIA. The FCC can help allocate the best use of low, mid and high-band spectrum.

Bergmann advised the Subcommittee to continue focusing on the 42 gigahertz band for terrestrial wireless operations. Not only does that spectrum band have the potential for global harmonization, he said, but it can help drive down the cost of wireless equipment as the demand for wireless services increase.

Because of MOBILE NOW, the industry can more effectively discuss the need for new spectrum allocations, said Mary Brown, senior director of technology policy at Cisco. The bill also allows the unlicensed spectrum community to contribute to the rising demand of strong, robust broadband networks.

The unlicensed industry is well-suited to testing new technologies, Brown said, as all unlicensed devices must prove that they adhere to FCC regulations. As the FCC continues to approve devices, she said, unlicensed spectrum holders have a strong stake in ensuring successful market entry.

Senate

National 6G Strategy Bill Passes Senate Commerce Committee

The Next Generation Telecommunications Act received bipartisan support.

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Photo of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto by Senate Democrats, via Wikimedia

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2022 – Legislation that would create a council to advise Congress on 6G and other wireless technologies and how they may power smart cities on Tuesday passed the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation committee with bipartisan support.

In addition to advising Congress on the state of technology in the telecommunications industry, the council would also develop a comprehensive, national telecom strategy, which will address topics related to technology, workforce demands and security.

The bill, Next Generation Telecommunications Act, S.3014,was introduced by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who said in a press release that the legislation is a key part of her state’s goal of being “on the cutting edge of new technologies.

“We’ve got to promote American competitiveness in these kind of cutting-edge technologies that we’re building in Nevada,” Cortze Masto said in a statement on the bill. “That means improving access to quality broadband, ensuring we have the necessary workforce, and putting in safeguards to make sure we protect emerging technologies.”

The council would be comprised of 15 members including the deputy secretary of Commerce, the assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, the undersecretary of the National Institute of Standards, the chairperson of the Federal Communications Commission, and the director of the National Science Foundation.

The council would also feature three members appointed by the majority leader of the Senate, two members appointed by the minority leader of the Senate, three members appointed by the Speaker of the House, and two members appointed by the minority leader of the House.

The bill has received notable bipartisan support: it is co-sponsored by two Republicans and two additional Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ben Luján, D-N.M.

“As China and other countries seek to exploit communications networks for surveillance and intellectual property theft, the U.S. needs a cohesive strategy for the safe deployment of next-generation wireless technologies,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

South Dakota senator and Senate Republican minority whip John Thune also came out in support of the bill. “This bill would allow the United States to continue competing on the global stage, and it would help prepare the United States to lead the way in deploying next-generation technology, including 6G. I’ll continue to work on bipartisan solutions that will increase innovation and bolster the private sector’s ability to compete in this emerging space.”

The bill must now get through a general vote in the Senate, at which point it will need to also pass the House.

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Senate

Gigi Sohn Nomination for FCC Advances Out of Commerce Committee on Party Lines

Nomination of Alvaro Bedoya to the FTC can also advance to the floor following a party-line vote.

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Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2022 –  President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Federal Communications Commission Gigi Sohn saw her nomination advance out of the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday following a vote split along party lines.

Sohn, as well as Biden’s nominee to the Federal Trade Commission Alvaro Bedoya, did not receive the vote of a single Republican on the committee while receiving the support of all Democrats including more moderate senators such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., allowing for their nominations to advance to a full vote on the Senate floor.

Republican ranking member of the committee Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi stated that on the FCC Sohn would have the appearance of conflicts of interest related to her involvement in past legal battles and cited her past recusals on retransmission consent as problematic.

The controversy is related to Sohn’s involvement with nonprofit streaming service Locast which attempted to make local broadcast network content available to the public for free, sparking copyright lawsuits.

Wicker stated that Bedoya was too divisive and not unifying enough to serve on the FTC, a trend of partisanship that he says is new to the agency.

Strong Democratic support for both nominees makes their confirmations in the Senate seem quite plausible. Should all Republicans vote against the nominations, the approval of all Democratic senators will be required in the deadlocked Senate so that the vice president may break vote ties in the nominees’ favors.

Both the FCC and FTC remain split along party lines, and the confirmations of Sohn and Bedoya would give Democrats the upper hand at the agencies.

The nominations’ advancements out of committee earned praise from telecom industry groups such as think tank New America, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, and intellectual property nonprofit Public Knowledge – the organization Sohn formerly headed.

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Infrastructure

Alan Davidson’s NTIA Nomination Clears Commerce Committee, On to Senate Floor

The committee did not raise Gigi Sohn’s nomination during its meeting.

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WASHINGTON, December 15, 2021 – The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted to approve President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Association Alan Davidson.

Davidson’s nomination will now be brought up for a confirmation vote before the entire Senate.

The committee approved Davidson, a former public policy director at Google, by voice vote. Republican Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., were the only senators to express reservations with Davidson.

Telecom trade associations reacted favorably to Wednesday’s committee vote.

The NCTA said Davidson’s role at the NTIA would be “critically important” to broadband funding and implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in unserved and underserved communities.

Utilities Technology Council President and CEO Sheryl Osiene-Riggs lauded Davidson’s “diverse background in public service and the private sector,” and US Telecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter called Wednesday’s developments “super important.”

Consideration of Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the Federal Communications Commission was not on the Commerce Committee’s agenda Wednesday. She faced opposition in the Senate in part due to her ties to the since-shuttered streaming service Locast.

Additionally on Wednesday, the committee voted on a bipartisan basis to advance the Securing Semiconductor Supply Chains Act of 2021 amid ongoing supply chain delays in the shipping of semiconductor chips.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., would direct Commerce Department trade promotion agency SelectUSA to increase collaboration with state economic development organizations to attract foreign direct investment in the semiconductor industry.

Additionally, a group of eight former NTIA administrators on Wednesday asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to quickly hold a vote so that the full Senate can quickly approve Davidson as the agency’s next leader.

The group:

  1. David Redl (NTIA Administrator 2017 – 2019)
  2. Lawrence E. Strickling (NTIA Administrator 2009 – 2017)
  3. Meredith Attwell Baker (Acting NTIA Administrator 2007 – 2008)
  4. John Kneuer (NTIA Administrator 2006 – 2007)
  5. Michael Gallagher (NTIA Administrator 2003 – 2006)
  6. Nancy Victory (NTIA Administrator 2001 – 2003)
  7. Greg Rohde (NTIA Administrator 1999 – 2001)
  8. Larry Irving (NTIA Administrator 1993 – 1999)
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