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House bill would mandate public auction of 5G airwaves

Photo of an advanced black cellphone tower framed against a blue sky
5G cellphone tower in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers dropped a bill Thursday directing the FCC to hold a public auction of coveted midband airwaves.

The big picture: The FCC is contemplating allowing a group of satellite companies to privately sell the airwaves to wireless companies for 5G service, amid opposition from cable companies and a now-bipartisan set of lawmakers.

Why it matters: The plan for the auction will affect how quickly 5G will be deployed and how much — if any — of the proceeds go to the government.

Details: The Clearing Broad Airwaves for New Deployment (C-BAND) Act is led by House Energy & Commerce communications subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui and Republican Reps. Bill Johnson and Greg Gianforte.

  • It would require the FCC to conduct a public auction and protect current users of the spectrum throughout the process, with auction proceeds going to the government.
  • The auction would have to make available between 200 and 300 megahertz of spectrum by 2022.

What’s next: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who intends to decide by this fall how to proceed, has said his priorities are speed, generating revenue for the government, making a significant amount of spectrum available for 5G, and ensuring that current users are protected.

  • The House Energy & Commerce communications subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday to discuss C-band issues.