Lawmakers Should Extend the FCC’s Auction Authority

On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing examining communications networks. The hearing helped to once again emphasize that the effective utilization of spectrum is important, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should continue to work to ensure spectrum is being properly allocated. Unfortunately, without Congressional action, the FCC’s spectrum auction authority will lapse in September of this year. This would be unwelcome news to taxpayers and consumers, and lawmakers should pass legislation to extend the FCC’s auction authority.

Since 1993, when legislation was passed to establish a competitive bidding process, Congress has not allowed the FCC’s spectrum auction authority to lapse. Tuesday’s hearing discussed H.R. 7783, the Extending America's Spectrum Auction Leadership Act of 2022, which would provide a short-term extension of spectrum auction authority until March 31, 2024. A short-term extension does have benefits, including avoiding unnecessary disruptions and providing lawmakers with time to establish a new spectrum pipeline.

Spectrum auctions have proven to be an effective and market-oriented approach to allocating spectrum. The proceeds of spectrum auctions are deposited in the U.S. Treasury. Spectrum auctions have generated over $230 billion, and the demand for spectrum is still strong, if not growing. Revenue from auctions can also be used for deficit reduction, something the federal government sorely needs to address.

In the race to 5G, effective spectrum allocation is critical. 5G technologies promise to unlock new benefits for consumers and the economy, and help us outpace foreign competitors like China that are working to catch up to the U.S. The FCC, Congress, and other federal agencies should work proactively to cement the U.S.’s role as the global leader in 5G technologies. Extending the FCC’s spectrum auction authority and establishing a spectrum pipeline would be a step in the right direction.

There are several upsides to a reauthorization of the FCC’s spectrum auction authority, and with the deadline to address this issue quickly approaching, lawmakers should act expeditiously to avert a lapse in the FCC’s auction authority. This would be one less headache for taxpayers, consumers, and businesses.