By a unanimous voice vote, members of the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday, known as the RAY BAUMS Act (H.R. 4986), that—in addition to reauthorizing the FCC for the first time in 25 years—allows the FCC to deposit spectrum auction proceeds directly with the U.S. Treasury and provides additional funds to pay for the repacking expenses of broadcasters who must relocate to new spectrum in the wake of last year’s incentive auction.
At the behest of Senate Commerce Committee leaders, House members agreed late last week to add modified language from the MOBILE NOW Act (S. 19) to the RAY BAUMS bill along with provisions from FCC reauthorization legislation approved by the Senate Commerce Committee during the 114th Congress in 2016. Aimed at spurring the deployment of fifth-generation (5G) wireless broadband services, the MOBILE NOW provisions adopted by the Senate last August would require the FCC to identify an additional 255 MHz of spectrum for fixed and mobile broadband use by 2022 and would also facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure on federal property. Among other things, provisions from the Senate Commerce Committee reauthorization bill would (1) amend the 1934 Communications Act to modify the terms of office and vacancies for FCC commissioners, and (2) require the FCC to “make publicly available an estimate of what systems of competitive bidding may be used in the next year and which bands of frequencies the Commission expects to be included in each system of competitive bidding.”
The RAY BAUMS bill includes other provisions which were approved last month by the House Energy & Commerce Committee encompassing FCC process reform, the establishment of a methodology to cover the collection of mobile service coverage data, and reports on the promotion of broadband services to U.S. veterans as well as broadband coverage in tribal areas. Although the legislation as adopted by the House does not pinpoint the exact amount of additional repack money that would be offered to broadcasters once the $1.75 billion TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund is exhausted, lawmakers have reportedly agreed to authorize up to $750 million in additional funding for fullpower TV stations, $150 million for low power TV stations and TV translators, and $50 million for affected FM radio stations.