Sen. Cruz: A Clear and Predictable Spectrum Pipeline Strengthens Our Economy, Global Influence, and National Security

March 21, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his opening statement at today’s full committee hearing titled “Spectrum and National Security,” Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) highlighted how the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024, legislation he introduced with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), would significantly expand commercial access to mid-band spectrum and ensure the U.S. dominates in next-generation wireless networks and technology. Sen. Cruz contrasted his legislation with the Biden administration’s bureaucratic dithering and its lack of concrete plans to expand commercial spectrum access, and explained that a course correction is needed to protect both our economic and national security.

Here are Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, for convening this hearing about spectrum policy and national security.  It couldn’t come at a more critical time: spectrum auction authority has been lapsed for more than a year, the Biden administration has no concrete plans for getting spectrum into the marketplace, and all the while, the mid-band spectrum gap between the U.S. and China continues to grow. 

“This is a problem, not just for our nation’s wireless companies and their customers, but for our national security.  For too long, our leaders have treated national security and wireless innovation as mutually exclusive.

“That’s deeply shortsighted.  If we want national security, we need wireless innovation.  If we want American companies and trusted vendors to prevail against our adversaries, we need to lead on spectrum.  Or to put it another way: If the U.S. does not dominate in next-generation wireless networks and technology, we will become dependent on our adversaries and compromise our national security.  To remain the world leader on 5G and beyond, we need a true mid-band spectrum pipeline.

“That’s why, last week, in partnership with Senators Thune and Blackburn, I introduced the Spectrum Pipeline Act.  This legislation is vital for the U.S. to stay ahead of our adversaries and advance strong economic growth. It requires the administration to identify at least 2,500 megahertz of prime mid-band spectrum to be reallocated for commercial use and creates shot clocks for the FCC to expeditiously auction at least half of that amount for 5G and 6G.? 

“Importantly, the bill is focused on getting the policy right at the outset, rather than allowing our nation’s spectrum policy to be dictated by where we should spend auction proceeds.  

“And it incentivizes agencies to use their spectrum more efficiently.  I’ve long believed that we need to change the incentive structure to help bring federal incumbents to the table.  By removing a key obstacle in current law, our bill allows agencies to use spectrum proceeds to replace affected equipment with even-better, state-of-the-art equipment. This will create a win-win outcome for consumers and federal agencies.

“Our bill also takes an all-of-the-above approach.  In addition to the wide-area, full power spectrum that is critical to 5G dominance, it maintains our leadership in Wi-Fi, too.  With its low barriers to entry and freedom from regulation, Wi-Fi is a quintessentially American success story —which is why the bill requires the FCC to make available at least 125 megahertz for unlicensed services before any auction occurs.  In the same vein, the bill requires the FCC to allocate more than 1,000 megahertz for licensed or unlicensed services.

“Speaking of an all-of-the above approach: Today, in partnership with Senator Rosen, I introduced the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act.  We must promote American innovation on all fronts, and that includes maintaining U.S. leadership in next-generation satellite technologies.

“While I’m committed to innovative, tech-neutral policies, I’d urge my colleagues to be wary of rent-seeking attempts by incumbent operators to block competition.  Fostering competition and lowering barriers to entry means less federal control of the airwaves and greater opportunities for economic growth. I implore my colleagues and stakeholders—do not fight to maintain the status quo. 

“Similarly, I’m disappointed that the majority chose at the last minute to add testimony from one side of the telecom industry but not the perspective of a competitor. We should be allowing lawmakers to hear from all sides on this issue.

“We need to work together and develop a harmonized, clear position—and that’s what the Spectrum Pipeline Act brings to the table.

“Unfortunately, the contrast between our bill and the Biden administration’s dilatory, ambiguous approach couldn’t be starker.

“We offer a concrete timeline for freeing up spectrum, while the administration’s ‘National Spectrum Strategy’ offers perpetual studies, bureaucratic dithering, and no action to free up a single megahertz. 

“We offer certainty, while they second-guess decisions and unlawfully withhold legitimately obtained spectrum from regulated entities.  

“We saw this most jarringly at the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference, when the U.S. delegation couldn’t get its act together. We were stuck playing defense as China led the world in promoting Huawei’s control of foreign telecom networks.

“Or take FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s decision to hold T-Mobile’s 2.5 gigahertz licenses hostage for more than a year.  While I’m glad Congress was able to step in and clean up the FCC’s mess, her inaction will reverberate for years to come.  In addition to depriving millions of consumers of 5G connectivity for over a year, the Chairwoman undermined confidence in the integrity of FCC auctions and spectrum property rights.

“We must reverse course.  The Spectrum Pipeline Act provides certainty rather than ambiguity.  It promotes competition, not barriers to entry.  Most of all, it creates a strong, harmonized position that ensures America leads the world on wireless technology and doesn’t fall behind her adversaries.  I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses and working with my colleagues so we can finally get our country’s spectrum policy back on track.”