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The telecom industry on Tuesday cheered the introduction of new legislation in the Senate that would create a pipeline to free up more spectrum and dedicate funds to boost the buildout of wireless broadband infrastructure.

Introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), the Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum (or AIRWAVES) Act aims to accomplish two goals.

First, the bill would establish a pipeline to open more spectrum for wireless providers to improve existing service and expand into new areas. It aims to accomplish this by making more efficient use of existing spectrum and freeing up additional unlicensed spectrum for wireless technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth.

Second, the act would require 10 percent of all spectrum auction proceeds to be funneled into paying for wireless broadband infrastructure buildouts in unserved and underserved areas across the country.

Gardner called the bill “commonsense legislation” that will offer “innovative ways to avoid a spectrum crunch, pave the way for 5G service, and provide critical resources to rural America.”

“So many of the wireless services we depend on – from telehealth to wireless phone service to WiFi – require the use of spectrum, which is a finite resource," Hassan added. "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.”

It seems legislators will have a receptive crowd to work with in telecom.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai – who has championed closing the broadband gap and is set to explore the use of more spectrum bands for wireless services – said in a statement the bill addresses an issue “critical to continued American leadership in wireless innovation.” Pai added he was “very pleased” about the auction proceeds provision, noting it would “go a long way toward closing the digital divide.”

Prominent operator groups like CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association also hailed the measure.

CTIA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Kelly Cole thanked Gardner and Hassan for bringing the act to the table, calling it “much needed” and “forward thinking.” CCA CEO Steven Berry also expressed support for the bill, saying it “marks an important step to ensuring consumers can reap the benefits of mobile broadband services.”

Applause also came from the likes of WiFiForward, New America’s Wireless Future Program, and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The latter particularly called out the “balanced mix of access models” included in the legislation.

“This approach will fuel wireless broadband expansion and provide flexibility for the diverse needs of Internet of Things applications,” ITIF Senior Telecom Policy Analyst Doug Brake wrote. “By putting more spectrum in the pipeline for broadband use, most notably for licensed access to the 3700 to 4200 MHz band and unlicensed access to the 6 GHz band, this bill would advance the commonsense goals of boosting innovation, expanding broadband access, and improving the spectrum-allocation process. For those reasons, the AIRWAVES Act is a welcome, bipartisan step forward.”

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