Sens. Cruz and Thune Unveil New Spectrum Pipeline Legislation to Spur Job Growth, Economic Prosperity

March 11, 2024

Promotes wireless innovation while protecting national security interests 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.) today unveiled legislation to expand commercial access to mid-band spectrum.

Ahead of the expiration of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) spectrum auction authority last March, Sens. Cruz and Thune released a statement “committing to developing a spectrum proposal that achieves the greatest value possible for American taxpayers while protecting our national security interests.” Introduction of the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024 follows a year-long effort to develop legislation that accomplishes those goals.

“To dominate in next-generation wireless technologies, stay ahead of our adversaries, and advance strong economic growth, the U.S. must create a pipeline to expand commercial access to mid-band spectrum,” said Sen. Cruz. “The Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024 meets those goals while promoting both consumer and national security interests. I thank Sen. Thune for his partnership on this legislation and his year-long effort to ensure we got this right.”

“Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless communications,” said Sen. Thune. “This legislation restores the FCC’s auction authority, and, in doing so, it ensures that crucial mid-band spectrum is made available for commercial 5G and advanced Wi-Fi use, which is a win-win for American entrepreneurs and consumers. I look forward to working with Senator Cruz and my other colleagues to advance this important and much-needed legislation.”

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is an original cosponsor of the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024.

“Beyond extending the FCC’s spectrum auction authority, which lapsed over one year ago, the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024 proposes concrete action to free critical mid-band spectrum for commercial use under defined timelines,” said Sen. Blackburn. “This bill will position the United States as a global wireless leader, and I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing it.”

Companies require radio spectrum to provide high-quality wireless service to consumers. Mid-band spectrum is particularly valuable, given its unique properties. The Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024 creates a true pipeline that significantly increases commercial access to mid-band spectrum.

Specifically, the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024 will protect American taxpayers and prioritize national security by:

  1. Identifying spectrum;
    1. Requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to identify at least 2,500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum that can be reallocated from Federal use to non-Federal or shared use in the next 5 years (including at least 1,250 megahertz in the next 2 years);
  2. Renewing the FCC’s auction authority;
    1. Renews the FCC’s auction authority, which expired in March 2023, and requires the FCC to auction at least 1,250 megahertz of spectrum for full-power commercial wireless services, including 5G, within 6 years (including at least 600 megahertz within 3 years);
  3. Promoting unlicensed innovation;
    1. Expands the United States’ leading role in unlicensed innovation by requiring the FCC to allocate at least 125 megahertz of additional spectrum for unlicensed services;
  4. Ensuring remaining spectrum can be licensed or unlicensed;
    1. Provides further opportunity for technology-neutral innovation in the remaining 1,125 megahertz of remaining spectrum identified by NTIA for commercial services;
  5. Creating new reporting requirements; and
    1. Ensures effective oversight by requiring the FCC and NTIA to submit to Congress annual progress reports as well as reports within 60 days of each identification made by NTIA;
  6. Upgrading federal systems.
    1. Removes a limitation in current law to allow federal agencies to purchase new state-of-the-art equipment using spectrum auction proceeds.

To read the full text of the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2024, click HERE.