House Subcommittee Moves Forward on Spectrum and Broadband Bills

BY John Howes
December 2, 2015

Washington, D.C. — The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications & Technology passed, on voice votes and without amendments, two bipartisan bills aimed at speeding up broadband deployment and providing incentives for future spectrum auctions.  The first bill was a discussion draft that combined a handful of bills, including the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015, commonly referred to as the “Dig Once” bill sponsored by Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR).  The provision in the discussion draft is nearly identical to the Dig Once bill, and it would ensure that infrastructure providers can lay broadband conduit while new federally-funded roads are built instead of excavating roads, sometimes just a few months after they are built.  The discussion draft also included other provisions that would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to maintain a database of federal assets that could be used for broadband facilities and streamline federal, environmental, and historic preservation processes for communications facility applications.

Under the second bill, H.R. 1641, the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act, federal agencies that make their spectrum available for auction would receive a portion of auction proceeds.  The agencies could discontinue their radio operations or relocate their operations to other spectrum bands that they would share with another federal user.  Currently, federal users can only be reimbursed for the costs of relocating or sharing their spectrum with non-federal users.

Both bills will now head to the full Energy & Commerce Committee for consideration.  There are similar bills in the Senate, and some of the provisions in today’s discussion draft are present in the “MOBILE NOW Act,” which the Senate Commerce Committee may discuss this month.

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