FCC Auction Authority, Calls for Tax-Free Broadband Grants, TikTok Ban Details

A bill that would extend the auction authority of the FCC passed the House.

FCC Auction Authority, Calls for Tax-Free Broadband Grants, TikTok Ban Details
Photo of Sen. Josh Hawley taken 2022 by Gage Skidmore

February 28, 2023 – A House bill introduced last week that would extend the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority to May 19, 2023 passed the House on Monday.

The commission’s ability to hold auctions for the radiowaves that are key to wireless communications was extended briefly to March 9 in the omnibus bill passed in December.

Bill H.R 1108, which was sponsored by Cathy Rodgers, R-WA., and Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., would extend it by at least two months.

“Spectrum policy is national security policy,” said a joint statement by the representatives. “Extending the FCC’s spectrum auction authority is critical for strengthening American leadership in innovation and our global competitive edge against China, making it all the more important to get the job done. We applaud the passage of H.R. 1108, which will help ensure we have the time necessary to work with our Senate colleagues to adopt a strong spectrum policy for America to win the future of wireless technology.”

Industry trade group INCOMPAS applauded the extension, according press release this Monday.

“With the looming March 9 deadline, I’m pleased to see the House act to extend the Commission’s auction authority to May 19,” said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. “While this is a necessary step, I encourage all sides to reach a long-term agreement as soon as possible. Any package that is passed needs to empower the FCC to leverage the nation’s spectrum resources for more licensed and unlicensed broadband use cases, including 5G service. This authority is critical to ensuring we are at the forefront of innovation and remain a global leader in the telecommunications marketplace.”

New guidelines for federal agencies to remove TikTok

Federal agencies will be pressed to complete measures related to the ban on Chinese-owned social media TikTok and other problematic software on government devices within 30 days.

A new memorandum by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget published Monday requires agencies to identify a banned application, such as TikTok, remove it and disallow installation on devices, and prohibit internet traffic within 30 days.

December’s omnibus bill included a ban on video sharing app TikTok and others on government devices. The Chinese-owned company has been flagged as a possible national security threat because of its ties to the Chinese Communist government.

In addition, the guidance requires that agencies within 90 days “ensure that any new contracts issued do not contain requirements that may include the use of a covered application in the performance of the contract, except in cases of approved exceptions; Cease use of contracts that contain requirements that may include use of a covered application in performance of the contract or modify those contracts to conform with the prohibition on covered applications.”

Industry group presses passing of reintroduced broadband tax bill

The Telecommunications Industry Association is calling for support for the Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act, which would prevent the federal government from clawing back via taxes portions of the billions of dollars in funding it is expected to deliver in the coming months.

Dualling bills in both the Senate and House reintroduced the Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act earlier this month, after a previous version that was introduced in early December did not pass before the new Congress.

Melissa Newman, vice president of government affairs at TIA, said in a statement earlier this month that, “Bridging the digital divide and delivering reliable, high-speed broadband is what the BEAD Program is designed to do, and taxing the grant funds would be counterproductive to the objective of this investment in America’s infrastructure.

“TIA remains committed to working with the Federal Government, State Governments, and our industry to help prepare for the BEAD Program by hosting the BEAD Success Summit this April in Arlington, Virginia.”

The bill’s supporters say it will increase the impact of Washington’s broadband funding initiatives, the largest of which is the IIJA’s $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. The IIJA allocated a total of $65 billion toward broadband-related projects.

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