Earlier this week, the Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum (AIRWAVES) Act, S. 1682, was introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH). As described by Sen. Hassan, “The bipartisan AIRWAVES Act will help ensure that
there is an adequate supply of spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use, which in turn will enhance wireless services to our people, stimulate our economy, and spur innovation.” Senator Gardner stated, “This legislation offers innovative ways to avoid a spectrum crunch, pave the way for 5G services, and provide critical resources to rural America.” The legislation would encourage a more efficient use of spectrum, the airwaves over which signals and data travel, while helping to close the urban-rural digital gap.
In a statement on the new bill, ALA President Jim Neal said:
The American Library Association applauds Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) on the introduction of the AIRWAVES Act and supports their efforts to increase the amount of unlicensed spectrum available to power libraries’ Wi-Fi networks. Access to Wi-Fi is important to virtually every patron of the nearly 120,000 school, public and higher education libraries in the United States. More spectrum for library Wi-Fi means more public access to the internet for everyone from school children to entrepreneurs, job seekers and scientists. The AIRWAVES Act will mean that millions more people, especially those in rural areas, will benefit from the library programs and services increasingly essential to their and the nation’s success in the digital age.
Specifically, The AIRWAVES Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission to free up unused or underused spectrum currently assigned to government users for commercial providers to expand their broadband offerings and for the expansion of services like Wi-Fi. The auctioned spectrum would include low-band, mid-band, and high-band frequencies, enabling the deployment of a variety of new wireless technologies. It also includes a proposal to auction other spectrum and would require that 10 percent of the auction proceeds be dedicated to funding wireless infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved rural areas.
Finally, the bill requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on the efficiency of the transfer of federal money from the Spectrum Relocation Fund to better encourage federal agencies to make additional spectrum available.
ALA urges Congress to support the AIRWAVES Act’s creative, bipartisan approach to spectrum use and rapid action on this important legislation.