HR 4986 will also facilitate spectrum auctions

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would streamline the way state governments manage applications to deploy communications infrastructure, and would make it easier for the FCC to hold spectrum auctions.

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HR 4986 directs state governments to “identify a broadband utility coordinator … responsible for facilitating the broadband infrastructure right-of-way efforts within the state.”

Although most wireless infrastructure deployment decisions are made at a local level, state governments can dictate local policy to some extent. A handful of states have already passed laws meant to expedite the deployment of small cells, and cities in those states are now on the fast track to 5G. 

HR 4986 also supports President Trump’s recent mandate for easier deployment of communications infrastructure on federal property. The bill calls for “one or more master contracts that shall govern the placement of communications facility installations on buildings and other property owned by the federal government, and … standardize the treatment of the placement of communications facility installations on building rooftops or facades, the placement of communications facility installations on rooftops or inside buildings, the technology used in connection with communications facility installations placed on Federal buildings and other property, and any other key issues the Administrator of General Services considers appropriate.”

The bill also calls for the establishment of a database of properties owned, leased, or managed by federal agencies, so that infrastructure providers could more easily leverage these sites. 

In addition, the bill would make it easier for the Federal Communications Commission to manage the financial aspects to spectrum auctions. Right now rules about collateralization of public deposits make it hard for banks to accept the upfront payments made by spectrum auction bidders. HR 4986 would change Communications Act of 1934 to allow the FCC to deposit these funds with the U.S. Treasury. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said his agency will auction spectrum in the 28 GHz band this November if the laws governing upfront payments are changed.

Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said the bill’s passage is the result of bipartisan efforts, and added that he expects success in the Senate as well.

“We commend the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate commerce committees for their leadership and commitment to bringing broadband to communities across the country,” Adelstein said. “We look forward to working in both chambers to ensure all Americans enjoy the benefits responsible and sustainable broadband deployment provides.”

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