South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune, chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, opened the 115th Congress on Jan. 3 by reintroducing S. 19.
What’s that? It’s none other than the Mobile Now act, which proposes reforms to boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by ensuring more spectrum is made available for commercial use, and by “reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.”
The version introduced by Thune, again co-sponsored by Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), mirrors legislation approved last Congress by the Commerce Committee by a voice vote.
“The Mobile Now Act is a gateway to faster and more extensive wireless coverage that empowers more Americans to use technologies requiring a connection to the internet,” said Thune. “This legislation is an early technology priority that I expect the Commerce Committee will send to the Senate floor soon.”
Highlights of the MOBILE NOW Act are as follows:
Making 500 megahertz available: A 2010 executive order set a goal of making available 500 MHz of federal spectrum for private sector use by 2020. The Act statutorily places key parts of that policy into law, including the requirement that the government meet the 500 MHz target by 2020.
Speeding up 5G infrastructure: Next-generation 5G wireless will rely on smaller antenna and infrastructure systems than current cellular technology. Federal agencies would have a new obligation to make decisions on applications and permit requests for placing wireless infrastructure on federal property in a timely and reasonable manner.
Spectrum assessments: The bill directs the federal government to conduct assessments of spectrum in the 3 GHz band and in the millimeter wave frequencies to determine whether authorizing licensed or unlicensed wireless broadband services in those bands is feasible, and if so, which frequencies are best suited for such operations. Frequencies totaling more than 13 gigahertz of bandwidth will be studied, most of which are in the millimeter wave frequencies that will be critical for future 5G wireless networks.
Dig once: The Act includes a statement of policy and sense of Congress that allows for the adoption of safe and efficient “dig once” policies by federal agencies. Dig once is the idea that a single conduit through which all broadband wires can be run should be laid in the ground at the same time as other below-ground infrastructure work, like highway construction. Dig once can reduce costs for deployment of broadband infrastructure.
National broadband facilities asset database: The bill creates a central, online inventory of federal government property assets available or appropriate for private-sector deployment of broadband facilities. Such information includes the location of buildings and points of contact for siting applications. State and local governments would be permitted to voluntarily submit information about their assets to the inventory.
Reallocation incentives: The Commerce Department would be directed to issue a report within 18 months on additional legislative or regulatory proposals to incentivize Federal entities to relinquish or share their spectrum with non-federal spectrum users.
Immediate transfer of funds for agencies: The Mobile Now Act accelerates the relocation of federal entities by allowing existing Spectrum Relocation Fund balances to be transferred to agencies for transition efforts immediately upon completion of an auction, rather than after the actual receipt by the fund of auction proceeds. By immediately executing their transition plans, agencies would reduce their timelines to vacate, potentially increasing auction proceeds due to the value of accelerated access to the auctioned bands.
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