Members launch caucus on airwaves, spectrum

As the Federal Communications Commission prepares for its 2015 airwaves buy-back and auction, a pair of House lawmakers has launched a new congressional caucus focused on spectrum.

The caucus, announced Thursday by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), will examine spectrum-related issues, including licensed spectrum — such as the kind used by federal agencies and wireless companies — and unlicensed spectrum, which powers Wi-Fi systems.

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"As our economy increasingly relies on spectrum, this Caucus will be an important mechanism for our colleagues and congressional staff to engage on the spectrum policies, both licensed and unlicensed, facing our economy,” Matsui said in a statement.

She said the group of lawmakers "will bring together leading experts, federal spectrum holders and stakeholder groups in public forums to identify underutilized federal spectrum and discuss ways to better utilize spectrum to spur innovation and create jobs in this country.”

The caucus is launching as the FCC plans its upcoming and highly anticipated 2015 auction, through which the agency will buy back airwaves from broadcasters and sell the airwaves to spectrum-hungry wireless companies like Verizon and T-Mobile. The goals of the auction, as decided by Congress, are to expand the capacity of the wireless market and fund an interoperable network for the country's first responders.

Matsui and Guthrie are currently the co-chairs of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Federal Spectrum Working Group, and both have introduced legislation aimed at improving the efficiency of the federal government's use of spectrum.

In the statement announcing the caucus, Guthrie said forming the group is the "next step" in the work he and Matsui have done on spectrum policy.

"The caucus will attempt to educate our colleagues on the importance of spectrum policy and identify ways to increase access to and better utilize spectrum," he said.