Committee Leaders Introduce Bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act

Legislation will boost development of 5G wireless gigabit broadband networks – the next evolution in wireless Internet technology.

February 11, 2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who respectively serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced the introduction of the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (MOBILE NOW) Act.

“The MOBILE NOW Act is our passport to a 5G future of gigabit wireless connectivity,” said Thune. “America needs these reforms to continue the era of digital innovation by forging ultra-fast wireless connections with everything from light-bulbs to cars through smart use of our limited spectrum resources. Forging a strong consensus required both time and changes to accommodate federal agencies. While we may still add additional provisions, Ranking Member Nelson and I are now ready to move this much-needed legislation forward.”

“Senator Thune and I have worked hard to meet consumers’ desire for cutting-edge wireless services, while at the same time protecting critical national security operations,” said Nelson. “The MOBILE NOW Act will help ensure the U.S. maintains its global leadership in advanced wireless services, including 5G.”
The bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act will boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless gigabit broadband by ensuring more spectrum is made available for commercial use and streamlining wireless network deployment regulations. The bill also contains provisions directing Federal agencies to evaluate a wide range of future spectrum bands for wireless broadband within three years after enactment, including the important millimeter wave frequencies that will be critical for 5G services.  

Click here for a section-by-section summary of the MOBILE NOW Act.

Click here for the text of the legislation as introduced.

Highlights of the MOBILE NOW Act:

Making 500 megahertz available: In a 2010 executive order, the president set forth a goal of making available 500 MHz of federal spectrum for private sector use by 2020. The MOBILE NOW Act statutorily places key parts of that memo into law, including the requirement that the government meet the 500 MHz target by 2020.  

Speeding up 5G infrastructure: Next-generation 5G wireless will rely on smaller antenna and infrastructure systems than current cellular technology. The FCC has started a rulemaking to facilitate deployment of these “small cells,” and this legislation requires the FCC to take action on that proceeding by the end of the year. Federal agencies would have a new obligation to make decisions on applications and permit requests for placing wireless infrastructure on federal property in a timely and reasonable manner.
Spectrum assessments: The bill directs the Federal government to conduct assessments of spectrum in the 3 GHz band and in the millimeter wave frequencies to determine whether authorizing licensed or unlicensed wireless broadband services in those bands is feasible, and if so, which frequencies are best suited for such operations. Frequencies totaling more than 13 gigahertz of bandwidth will be studied, most of which are in the millimeter wave frequencies that will be critical for future 5G wireless networks.
Dig once: The Act includes a statement of policy and sense of Congress encourages adoption of “dig once” policies by Federal agencies.  Dig once is the idea that a single conduit through which all broadband wires can be run should be laid in the ground at the same time as other below-ground infrastructure work, like highway construction. Dig once can reduce costs for deployment of broadband infrastructure.
National broadband facilities asset database: The bill creates a central, online inventory of federal government property assets available or appropriate for private-sector deployment of broadband facilities. Such information includes the location of buildings and points of contact for siting applications. State and local governments would be permitted to voluntarily submit information about their assets to the inventory.
Reallocation incentives: The Commerce Department would be directed to issue a report within 18 months on additional legislative or regulatory proposals to incentivize Federal entities to relinquish or share their spectrum with non-federal spectrum users.

Immediate transfer of funds for agencies: The MOBILE NOW Act accelerates the relocation of Federal entities by allowing existing Spectrum Relocation Fund balances to be transferred to agencies for transition efforts immediately upon completion of an auction, rather than after the actual receipt by the Fund of auction proceeds. By immediately executing their transition plans, agencies would reduce their timelines to vacate, potentially increasing auction proceeds due to the value of accelerated access to the auctioned bands.