Congress lets FCC spectrum auction authority lapse for first time in 30 years

Astonishingly, the U.S. Senate has allowed the auction authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lapse for the first time since it was granted to the FCC in 1994. If the FCC isn't in charge of the nation's spectrum, who is?

The U.S. Communications and Technology Subcommittee is holding more hearings today related to the issue. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member, said, “Yesterday, for the first time since the agency gained this authority 30 years ago, Congress failed to extend it when the Senate refused to act. The House did its work – we unanimously passed a bipartisan bill introduced by me and Chair Rodgers last month to extend the spectrum auction authority to May 19th. Our legislation would have prevented this lapse in authority.”

Congress had already been kicking the can on the FCC’s auction authority for several months.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated, “To date, the FCC has held 100 auctions and has raised more than $233 billion in revenues and unlocked extraordinary benefits for the American people. It is my hope that the FCC’s auction authority is restored quickly.”

Pallone said that spectrum is critical in terms of global competitiveness in wireless. “We cannot rest on past successes when China has already reportedly made three times as much spectrum available for 5G compared to the United States.”

Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of the trade group CTIA, said, “We call on Congress to act quickly to restore the FCC’s authority, and schedule the necessary future spectrum auctions so that we can secure our 5G leadership and our nation’s economic and national security.”

Finally, CCA President and CEO Tim Donovan said, “It is very disappointing that Congress failed to renew the FCC’s auction authority before last night’s deadline. Spectrum access plays a vital role in expanding ubiquitous wireless connectivity, ensuring the US leads the world in the development of next generation wireless networks and applications, and closing the digital divide. Congress must reinstate auction authority as quickly as possible and continue work on a long-term solution.”