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Rounds-Hirono Spectrum Auction Authority Extension Blocked on Senate Floor, Authority Expires Tonight

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) requested unanimous consent on his bipartisan legislation that would extend the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority until September 30, 2023. This extension would allow time for the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to complete their joint study on the spectrum needs of critical defense capabilities before frequencies in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band could be auctioned. The Rounds-Hirono plan assures American national security is safeguarded throughout the study process.

This authority, which was previously extended in December, is set to expire today. Rounds’ proposal was blocked by Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

Rounds’ remarks, as prepared for delivery: 

Madame President,

I rise today to ask unanimous consent on S. 650, a bill I introduced with Senator Hirono that would extend the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority until the end of this fiscal year.

Currently, this authority is set to expire tomorrow night.

Our legislation would prevent this expiration and allow the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to focus on a statutorily-required study.

This 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 are used to defend our country from attack.

The extension of this authorization until September 30, will allow time for the DOD and NTIA to complete their study, which is expected in September.

We cannot allow potential authorizing spectrum legislation to affect any decision making related to the lower 3GHz band before DOD and NTIA release their study, which is expected in September.

Madame President, the FCC’s spectrum auction authority was previously extended less than three months ago.

Unfortunately, each time this auction authority expires at short and arbitrary intervals, we find additional language being proposed that would modify the current process by which any sharing of this spectrum would be determined. 

The Department of Defense finds itself responding to proposals that include offering up for auction critical bands of spectrum before the study has been completed.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 requires the DOD to conclude the spectrum study by September 2023.

Importantly, the study mandates examination of the feasibility of DOD sharing the 3.1-3.45 GHz band of spectrum, a limited resource, with industry.

The extension I call up today would make certain the analysis of the study is completed before taking actions which could potentially harm the national security of the United States.

While the development of 5G networks is important to both the economic prosperity and national security of the United States, 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.

Madame President, many of the reasons that make an extension until the end of the fiscal year vital cannot be discussed here on the Senate floor because they need to take place in a classified setting.

Over the past several months, I’ve hosted a series of classified and unclassified briefings for my colleagues, their congressional staff members, the telecom industry and the defense industry. 

These briefings were delivered by both DOD and the NTIA.

Madame President, I think we all want to see the FCC’s spectrum auction authority extended and I am offering a solution that extends that auction authority and protects the national security of our country.

As if in Legislative Session, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation be discharged from further consideration of S.650 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration; further, that the bill be considered read a third time and passed, and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.


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