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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Spectrum Policy: Provisions in the 2012 Spectrum Act - R43256

Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-96, signed February 22, 2012) contained provisions in Title VI that expedite the availability of spectrum for commercial mobile broadband. The provisions in Title VI—also known as the Public Safety and Spectrum Act, or the Spectrum Act—cover reallocation of spectrum, new assignments of spectrum rights, and changes in procedures for repurposing spectrum used by the federal government. The act also included provisions to apply future spectrum license auction revenues toward deficit reduction; to establish a planning and governance structure to deploy public safety broadband networks, using some auction proceeds for that purpose; and to assign additional spectrum resources for public safety communications.

Broadband capacity to support popular mobile services and devices, such as real-time viewing of video on smartphones, can be improved in several ways. Examples include (1) providing new spectrum for networks to expand; (2) investing in denser infrastructure; or (3) developing new technologies. Provisions of the Spectrum Act focus on increasing the amount of spectrum as the key policy tool for spectrum management. Going forward, however, other policy tools may need to be considered in order to make spectrum access more inclusive.

Many policy makers and Members of Congress are concerned, for example, that the current structure of auctions to assign spectrum licenses does not provide enough opportunities for competition or new entrants into mobile communications markets. These concerns include the availability of spectrum for uses such as telemedicine or driverless vehicles. The spectrum needs of emerging technologies that some believe may be key drivers of future economic growth are not specifically addressed in the Spectrum Act and appear to receive scant attention from policy makers. In addition to autonomous vehicles, growth industries that are, at least in part, spectrum dependent include advanced robotics, cloud computing, and machine-to-machine communications (the Internet of Things).

Date of Report: November 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R43256
Price: $29.95

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