The House Energy & Commerce Committee continued to get praise Thursday (Feb. 15) for its unanimous vote to report out an FCC authorization bill that included FCC process reforms and more money for TV stations moving to new channels in the post-incentive auction repack.
That included from FCC chair Ajit Pai.
“I commend the House Energy and Commerce Committee for passing H.R. 4986, RAY BAUM’S Act," Pai said. "This legislation, appropriately renamed to honor the late Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, includes two particularly critical provisions. The first allows certain funds of bidders in FCC spectrum auctions to be deposited in the U.S. Treasury—fixing a problem in current law that prevents the FCC from holding a major spectrum auction. The second authorizes additional funding for the repacking of broadcasters required to relocate following the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction."
Pai had signaled to Congress that the $1.75 billion it had allocated to compensate TV stations and some cable systems for repack-related expenses would not be enough.
The funding provision in the bill would expand compensation to co-located FM's affected by the repack, as well as LPTVs and translators.
"In addition to reauthorizing the FCC, this bill contains important provisions for CCA members," said Competitive Carriers Association president Steven K. Berry. "It is absolutely critical for competitive carriers to have access to the spectrum purchased in the recent incentive auction to expand their networks and help close the digital divide, and we appreciate any efforts to make sure this happens as soon as possible."
Related: Spectrum Auction by the Numbers [subscription required]
The sooner broadcasters move to new channels, the sooner the spectrum auctioned to wireless carriers is freed up, so money to pay for those moves could speed that process.
"Additionally," said Berry, "reliable mobile coverage data has been a priority for the Committee, and we thank the Committee for including the Rural Wireless Access Act, championed by Representatives Loebsack and Costello, in the bill. Reliable data is sorely needed to effectively distribute support to preserve and expand mobile broadband.”
The Rural Wireless Act provision of the reauthorization bill "requires the Federal Communications Commission to establish a consistent method for its collection of coverage data relating to the availability, speed tiers, and performance characteristics of commercial mobile service or commercial mobile data service in particular geographic locations in the United States."