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Congress allows FCC’s spectrum authority to lapse for first time since 1994

13 Mar 2023

The US Senate has allowed the spectrum auction authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lapse for the first time since it was granted in 1994. A bill that would have extended the regulator’s spectrum authority to 19 May was passed by the lower house but objections in the Senate (upper house) delayed the legislation, resulting in the lapse.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, informed the Communication and Technology subcommittee hearing of the news on Friday 10 March. She stated: ‘On 27 February the House passed my bipartisan legislation with Ranking Member Pallone to extend the FCC’s authority to issue spectrum licences until 19 May. This would have given Congress enough time to come to an agreement on a more comprehensive package addressing many issues in the communications and technology space. For reasons unknown to me, certain senators decided to risk US wireless leadership over a date change.’

In light of the development, FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued the following statement: ‘For three decades, the FCC’s authority to auction the nation’s airwaves has been an indispensable tool for harnessing the promise of new wireless technologies while also spurring economic growth, creating jobs, and strengthening our national security and global leadership. Time and time again our auctions have proven to be an enormous engine for market innovation and the flourishing internet ecosystem, and for expanding the reach of next-generation connectivity to everyone, everywhere. To date, the FCC has held 100 auctions and has raised more than USD233 billion in revenues and unlocked extraordinary benefits for the American people. It is my hope that the FCC’s auction authority is restored quickly so that this important programme is once again able to produce results for consumers and the economy.’

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