The legislative effort to update the Federal government’s spectrum management processes got one step closer to becoming law when a bipartisan group of four House members introduced a bill identical to the version added to the Senate’s annual defense bill earlier this month.

The Spectrum IT Modernization Act of 2020 calls for the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to identify goals to modernize the IT systems, tools, and databases that constitute the Federal spectrum management process. A report to Congress on those goals would be required within 240 days of the bill’s enactment.

“With the advancement of our legislation, we will improve the coordination and management of federal spectrum,” said Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, one of four sponsors of the legislation in the House, in a press release.

Coordination of the Federal spectrum management process has come under scrutiny recently as commercial providers look to build out 5G networks.

In May, NTIA – which manages spectrum allocated to Federal agencies, including the Defense Department (DoD) – petitioned the FCC, which manages non-Federal spectrum, to reconsider its April spectrum award decision to Virginia-based Ligado. The FCC’s decision has drawn strong opposition from DoD which says Ligado’s operation will endanger Global Positioning System functions, and divided the Hill along lines that were not simply partisan.

Also in May, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee advanced its identical spectrum IT modernization bill. That measure – sponsored by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has since been tacked on to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) being debated this week.

The Senate bill would require the Comptroller General to oversee and report to Congress on the NTIA’s plans, report, and implementation.  And the bill requires a plan to address how spectrum can be shared between Federal agencies.

“The federal government is the largest holder of spectrum, and I believe it has a major responsibility to manage this resource in a way that incentivizes innovation and creates opportunity,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., a sponsor of the House legislation along with Reps. Latta, Rick Larsen, D-Wash., and Tim Walberg, R-Mich. “That’s why it’s important that the federal government has the most up-to-date spectrum management systems,” Rep. Doyle said.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.