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Rounds, Hirono Introduce Legislation Extending Spectrum Auction Authority Until End of Fiscal Year, Protecting National Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation that would extend the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority until September 30, 2023. This authority, which was previously extended in December, is set to expire on March 9, 2023. A two-month extension is expected to be considered in the Senate this week.

“Our bipartisan bill would enable the Department of Defense (DOD) to focus on a statutorily-required study, which will define DOD’s spectrum requirements and articulate the risks should the department lose access to portions of the 3.1-3.45 GHz frequencies that are home to systems that defend our country from attack,” said Rounds. “Each time the authority expires at these short and arbitrary intervals, DOD finds itself confronting proposals that include offering these critical frequencies for auction before the study has been completed.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2023 requires the DOD to conclude the spectrum study by August 2023. Importantly, the study also mandates examination of the feasibility of DOD sharing the 3.1-3.45 GHz band of spectrum, a limited resource, with industry. The extension proposed by Rounds and Hirono would allow for the completion and analysis of the study before taking actions which could potentially harm the national security of the United States.

“The development of 5G networks is important to both the economic prosperity and national security of the United States,” said Rounds, “but the premature auction of spectrum must not jeopardize the systems that depend on radars and other critical sensors to protect our troops and our citizens from air or missile attacks. That’s why I believe that completion of this study is so important.”

Rounds has championed information sharing on the need for the study to be completed before spectrum critical to DOD missions is considered for auction. He has hosted a series of classified and unclassified briefings for members of the United States Senate, congressional staff, the telecom industry and the defense industry. These briefings were delivered by both DOD and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“It is vital for members to have the facts before they cast votes on this issue,” said Rounds, “and it is the responsibility of Congress to hold both agencies accountable, and make certain they are kept out of an inherently political decision, regardless of the pressure they have received from the White House.” 

"As we work to maximize the utility of our nation's broadband spectrum, it's critical Congress has all relevant information on the impacts of reallocating spectrum to ensure national interests in 5G are balanced with our national defense," said Hirono. "Any decision about spectrum currently used by DOD should be deferred until the Department finalizes its report on spectrum usage and the costs of transitioning, due later this year, and until the telecommunications industry has had a chance to respond. I join Senator Rounds in introducing this commonsense language to prevent a premature decision before understanding all potential impacts on our national security." 

Click HERE for full bill text.


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