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Dynamic Spectrum Sharing Subject of Debate at Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on the Future

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Photo of the witness table at Senate Commerce Committee hearing on industries of the future by Adrienne Patton

WASHINGTON, January 16, 2020 – Senators raised a grab bag of concerns about broadband mapping, the digital divide, spectrum sharing and online misinformation at a Wednesday hearing featuring top government officials in the communications and technology industries.

Democrat-appointed Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel sparred with her Republican colleague, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly over whether the U.S. was winning the race for deployment of the wireless 5G standard, and what Congress and the FCC should do to expedite 5G.

Rosenworcel said that 5G had only been deployed in urban markets, not rural. She said that the FCC needed to be more active in making mid-band spectrum, such as airwaves in the C-Band from 3.7 GigaHertz (GHz) to 4.2 GHz, to boost higher-speed wireless deployments.

She said dynamic spectrum sharing tools for utilizing the C-Band were ready to deploy and could immediately go to market. She criticized the FCC’s slow pace in making it available.

But O’Rielly pushed back against Rosenworcel’s assertion. He referred to the Citizens Band Radio Service auction of mid-band spectrum at 3.5 GHz, and which is scheduled for June 2020.

Referring to the C-Band, O’Rielly said that there were policy and software complications that delayed the timeline. He also said that 5G deployments – wherever offered on the radio frequency dial – “have the opportunity to revolutionize wireless communication” by supporting 22.3 million jobs and trillions in economic growth.

One general theme animating the senators questioning the witnesses was concern about the digital divide and weaknesses in mapping, which continue to impede broadband deployment.

A broadband map must come first, said Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, or effective deployment cannot begin.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, was concerned about the lack on connectivity in his home state. He questioned the FCC’s ability to deploy broadband in rural communities and said the digital divide between urban and rural American is simply “crazy.”

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., touted a bill he proposed to bring Wi-Fi to rural school buses in an effort to close the homework gap. Rosenworcel agreed that Wi-Fi on school buses would greatly help rural students, as seven in 10 teachers now assign homework that requires internet access.

National Science Foundation Director France Córdova touted the importance of dynamic spectrum sharing of signals spread over large frequencies. Because spectrum is limited and precious, it’s crowded and crucial that none of it be wasted.

She and other witnesses highlighted the ability for Congress and the FCC to authorize tools permitting such dynamic spectrum sharing, supporting Rosenworcel’s emphasis on allowing spectrum sharing in the C-Band.

Córdova also spoke of how the NSF had set up a test bed for dynamic spectrum sharing, underscoring witnesses’ belief in more research on spectrum-sharing.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, asked what could be done to ensure against deepfakes.

Córdova replied that the NSF invests in the research needed to develop unbiased and ethical artificial intelligence. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios agreed that, with regard to AI, R&D should be the government’s primary focus. Then, it could partner with international allies who will also enforce safe principles of AI.

Córdova expressed concern for a workforce prepared for the industries of the future. While we have technologies to deploy, they will not thrive without a skilled workforce, she said.

Adrienne Patton was a Reporter for Broadband Breakfast. She studied English rhetoric and writing at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She grew up in a household of journalists in South Florida. Her father, the late Robes Patton, was a sports writer for the Sun-Sentinel who covered the Miami Heat, and is for whom the press lounge in the American Airlines Arena is named.

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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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