As expected, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday (3/6) authorized additional funds for broadcasters repacking their channels following the recently concluded FCC incentive auction.
H.R. 4986, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services, or RAY BAUM’S Act, passed by voice vote.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) jointly commented on the passage.
They said, “After years of working on FCC reauthorization and a spectrum agreement, we are thrilled this historic legislation has passed the House. The RAY BAUM’S Act will make the FCC more transparent, efficient, and modern while strengthening the nation’s critical telecommunications services and spurring the deployment of 5G. With this legislation, we’re also upholding our commitment to broadcasters across the country by authorizing reimbursement for those broadcasters who were displaced after the successful incentive auctions. Now, we look forward to working alongside our Democratic colleagues and Senate counterparts to get this bill to the president’s desk.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee approved an earlier version of H.R. 4986 by voice vote last month. The legislation that passed today will:
- Reauthorize the FCC and include reforms to ensure the commission continues to improve its efficiency and transparency.
- Enact key provisions from the Senate-approved MOBILE NOW Act (S. 19) to boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by identifying more spectrum – both licensed and unlicensed – for private sector use and reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.
- Authorize a repack fund to address the shortfall in funding available to relocate broadcasters being displaced following the successful Incentive Auction, and set up new relocation funds for translators, low-power television, and radio stations that will be impacted by the repack – supplemented by a consumer education fund.
- Include a spectrum auction deposit “fix” which allows the FCC to deposit upfront payments from spectrum bidders directly with the U.S. Treasury.
- Direct the FCC to craft a national policy for unlicensed spectrum that includes certain specific considerations and recommendations.
- Advance proposals that would help the FCC and law enforcement protect consumers from fraudulent telephone calls, and to educate Americans about their options to stop these illegal calls.
The bill is named for former Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Director and NAB government lobbyist Ray Baum, a champion of telecommunications policy and long-time personal friend of Chairman Walden, who lost his battle with cancer in February.
America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) President/CEO Patrick Butler was one of the first to laud the House for the bill’s passage.
“This additional funding, whose need was predicted by the broadcasting industry and by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden before the spectrum law was enacted in 2012, would ensure that our local public television stations have the resources they need to complete the repacking in a timely and efficient way, educate consumers about the transition and minimize disruption for their viewers,” he said.