Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., reintroduced the Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum (AIRWAVES) Act on July 23. The legislation will “encourage the Federal government to continue to free up spectrum for commercial licensed and unlicensed use and leverage the success of spectrum auctions to help close the urban-rural divide,” according to the bill’s sponsors.

“The bipartisan AIRWAVES Act would free up badly-needed spectrum to help speed up the development of innovative 5G technologies and, crucially, it would also make meaningful investments in expanding rural broadband infrastructure in places like New Hampshire,” Hassan said.

If passed, the legislation will in part establish a spectrum pipeline that “will provide more capacity for wireless providers to improve existing service and expand to new areas, as well as to provide greater access to spectrum for innovators to develop important next-generation technologies.” The act is intended to encourage both Federal agencies and the private sector to develop new, better ways to utilize spectrum and avoid a “spectrum crunch,” as well as “lay the groundwork for 5G technologies.” The legislation also requires 10 percent of proceeds from spectrum auctions in the bill to be used to improve wireless broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved rural areas.

The legislation was lauded by telecom industry groups.

“The reintroduction of the AIRWAVES Act comes at a critical time and we need it to create a pipeline of spectrum for nationwide 5G deployment. Wireless broadband internet access will power next-gen technologies that will transform industries including healthcare and telecommunications. We look forward to working with the House and Senate as the AIRWAVES Act develops,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association.

Common Carriers Association President and CEO Steven K. Berry also praised the legislation.

“Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless carriers, and making additional spectrum available for commercial use will greatly benefit consumers, industry and the economy as a whole, while the rural dividend provision will help close the digital divide,” said Berry. “All Americans, particularly those in rural and hard-to-reach areas, need access to robust mobile broadband services, and I commend the senators for their tireless work and innovative ideas to ensure no consumers are left behind as we move toward next-generation technologies.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.