FCC chairman wants new spectrum auctions

FCC chairman wants new spectrum auctions
© Greg Nash

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday said that he wants to free up more spectrum, the radio bands that telecommunications companies use for their networks.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Pai said that he would like the FCC to hold an auction in November for the 28 GHz bands that 5G wireless broadband relies on. After this, he would like to hold another spectrum auction for 24 GHz bands.

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The chairman noted during his remarks that his timeline is reliant on Congress passing legislation addressing upfront payment by May 13. Companies interested in bidding must provide some money upfront to prove that they have the resources to deploy spectrum bands. Previously, this money was held by banks, but private financial institutions are now less amenable to this.

To address this issue, Congress has introduced the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services (Ray Baum’s) Act, which would allow the FCC to store these payments with the U.S. Treasury. The bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill GOP turns its fire on Google Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon MORE (R-Ore.) and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairwoman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates MORE (R-Tenn.) called on Congress to pass the legislation following Pai’s remarks.

“The race to 5G is a sprint, not a marathon, and the proposed spectrum auctions will help ensure the United States remains at the forefront of this emerging technology. Today’s announcement from Chairman Pai is yet another reason to enact the bipartisan RAY BAUM’S Act,” they said.

Pai said that 5G deployment will be delayed if the legislation isn’t passed by May 13. 

During his speech, Pai also defended his heavily criticized decision to scrap the FCC’s net neutrality rules as pivotal in helping the development of wireless 5G.

“We believe that our decision will give the private sector greater incentives to invest in the 5G networks of the future and bring greater digital opportunity to the American people,” he said. “To lead the world in 5G, the United States needs modern, flexible, light-touch network regulation, not a one-size-fits-all utility model from the 1930s.”