Members of the House Communications & Technology subcommittee approved a pair of bills on Wednesday that would (1) incentivize federal agencies to surrender their spectrum to the wireless industry with a share of the auction proceeds, and (2) boost broadband network deployment with the enactment of “dig once “policies as well as the streamlining of permit processes to install antennas and other infrastructure on federal property.

Adopted unanimously by voice vote, the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act (FSIA) revives legislation that cleared the House Energy & Commerce Committee in December 2013 but failed to progress to the House floor.  Introduced by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and co-sponsored by subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and ranking subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the FSIA would provide federal agencies that relinquish their spectrum with up to 1% of the auction revenues to help fund the cost of relocating to alternate frequency bands or offset sequestration-related budget cuts.  FISA also mirrors federal spectrum incentive legislation (S. 887) that was introduced earlier this year by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Deb Fisher (R-NE) and is now under review by the Senate Commerce Committee. 

The draft broadband deployment legislation, approved unanimously by the subcommittee, incorporates the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act (HR-3805) in addition to six bipartisan proposals that were reviewed by subcommittee members at an October 28 hearing.  Co-sponsored by Walden and Eshoo, the conduit deployment portion of the draft bill would allow carriers to install broadband network infrastructure during federal highway construction projects to avoid the need for separate digs.  Among other things, the draft measure would also (1) expand wireless industry access to poles for attaching broadband facilities, (2) require federal agencies to use common forms when leasing space for wireless broadband facilities, and (3) create a database of federal assets on which “fiber can be hung, antennas can be attached or wires can be trenched.”

Both measures are now teed up for consideration by the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Walden promised that, once the bills are adopted by the committee and the House, he would “march en masse” with his supporters to win passage at the Senate.  As Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) lauded the bills as “the result of bipartisan efforts to increase the ability of our country’s communications providers to invest in networks and bring the power and freedom of broadband to every corner of the country,” commerce committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) voiced hope that “we can continue our bipartisan efforts to free more airwaves for commercial broadband.”