Cantwell Leads Innovative Spectrum Legislation to Strengthen National Security, Keep Millions of Consumers Connected & Boost US Global Leadership

April 26, 2024

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, released the Spectrum and National Security Act, comprehensive legislation that will modernize the nation’s spectrum policy to protect our communications networks against foreign adversaries, restore Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction authority, secure critical broadband funding to keep Americans connected, and invest in CHIPS and Science innovation initiatives that will boost U.S. technological competitiveness.  

“By modernizing federal spectrum strategy and restoring auction authority, we can promote innovation, boost U.S. competitiveness, and complete the ‘rip and replace’ necessary to strengthen our national security. Importantly, this proposal will also allow us to make important investments, such as $500 million to educate, train, and expand our future telecommunications workforce,” said Sen. Cantwell.

The Spectrum and National Security Act:

  • Modernizes Federal Spectrum Management: The federal government utilizes spectrum across agencies – from military operations to emergency preparedness alerts. The legislation creates a balanced process to maximize government spectrum usage and promote interagency cooperation. This coordination will position the United States to lead on wireless innovation and protect national security interests with American-led technology at home and around the world.  
  • Grows the Spectrum Pipeline: This legislation creates an efficient solution to spectrum management by directing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and spectrum-using federal agencies to conduct feasibility assessments to find unused bands and maximize availability for all users from government to businesses.
  • Invests in New Innovative Technology: This legislation invests in wireless technology innovation like Dynamic Spectrum Sharing to maximize this finite resource by enabling multiple users to access the same spectrum bands. This includes providing $25 million to the NTIA and the Department of Defense to research and develop advanced spectrum technologies such as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing.
  • Reignites the FCC’s Auction Authority: The legislation restores the FCC commercial auction authority, which lapsed on March 9, 2023, and extends the authority for five years, until September 30, 2029. The FCC has been unable to auction commercial spectrum for over a year, hamstringing those providers trying to meet the surging spectrum demands of wireless consumers. The auction authority will provide funding for critical technology research and development initiatives.
  • Supports Workforce Training Programs: This legislation creates a new Telecommunications Workforce Training Grant Program to prepare America’s labor force for the future. $500 million in grants will be awarded to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-serving Institutions to develop education and job training programs for students to enter the telecommunications and spectrum workforce.
  • Boosts Tech Hubs and Science: This legislation provides a critical boost in funding to science agencies and CHIPS and Science initiatives so the United States can continue to lead global innovation. It includes $2 billion for the Department of Commerce’s Regional Tech Hubs Program to fully fund more Hubs across the nation and award more strategy development grants. It provides $3 billion to boost the CHIPS manufacturing incentives program. It also provides $5 billion for NSF and NIST research programs, including critical funding for NIST facilities maintenance and construction.
  • Keeps Americans Connected Online: Currently, more than 23 million households nationwide rely on the Affordable Connectivity Program for work, school, health care and more, but risk losing service if the program is not renewed. By using proceeds from commercial auctions, this legislation provides $7 billion to continue funding this critical bipartisan program for American households. This legislation also provides $200 million for nonprofits to work with Minority-serving Institutions, including Tribal communities, to prepare funding application for broadband infrastructure and digital equity programs created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
  • Secures American Networks and Supports Rural Providers: As the nation works to secure our telecommunications networks and remove unsecure Chinese Huawei and ZTE equipment from communities, states and rural providers are facing financial burdens in the process – some on the verge of bankruptcy. Without funding to “rip and replace” this equipment, many providers may be forced to cut off service to residents. By using proceeds from commercial auctions, this legislation provides $3 billion to continue funding the bipartisan Rip and Replace Program.
  • Invests in Next Gen 911: Every year, more than 200 million calls are made to our nation’s 911 emergency response system, according to the FCC. As technology advances, this bill provides $2 billion to continue funding the Next Generation 911 initiative to upgrade emergency services to be faster and more resilient and allow for voice, photos, videos, and text messages to work in the 911 system.


Read the bill text substitute amendment, one-pager, and section-by-section.  


Competitive Carriers Association
“CCA welcomes the introduction of ‘Spectrum and National Security Act of 2024’ and thanks Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for her efforts. Access to spectrum is crucial for U.S. wireless ecosystem growth, innovation, and connectivity. Given limited spectrum resources, policymakers must focus on reallocating sufficient licensed, full-power spectrum to ensure that all Americans, including those in rural, underserved, and unserved areas, have access to ubiquitous connectivity. It is also imperative that Congress immediately and fully fund the Reimbursement Program. Many Program participants have reached or surpassed their pro-rated funding allocations and are now making painful decisions where they will have to reduce or even eliminate wireless service for their own subscribers and the tens of millions of customers roaming onto their networks because of this national security mandate. The impacts will be especially harmful for those that could lose access to 9-1-1 and emergency services. Additionally, absent further funding, the ACP will sunset next month. I thank Chair Cantwell for addressing these priorities in this legislation and look forward to working with her and her colleagues in Congress, and Senate and House Leadership to urgently address these issues as soon as possible,” said Tim Donovan, President and CEO, CCA.

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association
“We applaud the release of Senate Commerce Committee Chair Cantwell’s discussion draft of the Spectrum and National Security Act, legislation that will improve spectrum planning and coordination required to build a future-focused spectrum policy that supports innovation, competition and seamless connectivity.  In particular, we welcome the bill’s thoughtful approach to the study of new bands that can enable commercial use through greater reliance on the development, design and implementation of coexistence technologies that support licensed and unlicensed services. The current use and continuing evolution of technology enabling such sharing is not only beneficial to consumers, but increasingly will be required, to ‘expand the pie’ of available frequencies and meet future commercial and non-commercial needs. In addition to supporting this future spectrum work, we similarly appreciate action in the bill to extend the FCC’s lapsed auction authority, to help low-income families access broadband, and to honor prior commitments supporting the removal of communications equipment recognized as posing a security risk. We look forward to working with all in Congress on this legislation and critical issue,” said NCTA.

Spectrum for the Future
“We applaud Chairwoman Cantwell for offering a forward-looking proposal that can deliver mid-band spectrum to meet America’s future needs without sacrificing national security. This proposal would restore the FCC’s auction authority and promote an innovative approach to dynamic spectrum sharing that can help turbo-charge U.S. wireless leadership without forcing us to choose between prosperity and security. “Chairwoman Cantwell’s proposal rightly recognizes that dynamic sharing is vital to maximizing limited spectrum, and consistent with the findings of the EMBRSS report, will help make that vision a reality. Spectrum for the Future looks forward to working with Chairwoman Cantwell and other policymakers to deliver on the Administration’s National Spectrum Strategy, pave the way for more innovation and more competition in the wireless market, and ultimately prioritize the needs of American consumers everywhere,” said Tamara Smith, Spokesperson, Spectrum for the Future.

“Ample access to spectrum for unlicensed and shared technologies has made the U.S. a global leader in spectrum policy and must be a key part of our nation’s spectrum future. The Spectrum and National Security Act advances a clear strategy to maintain our global competitiveness,  standing up for innovative technologies like Wi-Fi while protecting critical federal missions that rely on spectrum. Evidence-based decision-making on how best to make use of radio spectrum contrasts starkly with approaches in countries like China, which prefers to see all global spectrum designated for international mobile telecommunications – and therefore in the hands of Chinese state-sponsored companies like Huawei. The Spectrum and National Security Act takes a technology-neutral approach to design band utilization plans that best advance U.S. needs. WifiForward commends Chair Cantwell for releasing this important legislation, and we look forward to working with her and other policymakers to ensure that the U.S. remains the global spectrum leader,” said Mary Brown, Executive Director, WifiForward.

NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association
“NATE commends Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for introducing the Spectrum and National Security Act of 2024. The legislation is an important contribution to the ongoing deliberations regarding the US’s future policy framework for spectrum and national security. We are particularly encouraged that the proposal would fund the rip and replace program, which is important for securing our networks, protecting consumers from emerging cyberthreats. Additionally, the legislation would go a long way to improving workforce development efforts in the communications industry. Both improving the integrity of our communications infrastructure and preparing the next generation of the communications workforce are essential to closing the digital divide. We look forward to participating in these important conversations with members of the Senate Commerce Committee as they consider this path forward,” said Todd Schlekeway, President and CEO, NATE.