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House Passes Minibus; Senate Awaits

Daines Bows AWS-3 Licenses Resale Bill to Fund Rip and Replace After FY24 Snub

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., led filing of the Supporting National Security with Spectrum Act Friday as an alternative vehicle for allocating an additional $3.08 billion for the FCC’s Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program after congressional leaders didn't agree to include the funding in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act FY 2024 minibus spending bill (see 2403210067). Congress inched closer Friday to passing the minibus, which also didn't include stopgap funding for the FCC's ailing affordable connectivity program despite a strong push by the initiative's backers (see 2402210073).

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The House voted 286-134 Friday for H.Res. 1102 to pass the minibus spending bill as an amendment to legislative vehicle HR-2882. The Senate in the afternoon voted 78-18 on the motion to proceed to the House-amended HR-2882, clearing the chamber’s first procedural hurdle. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., later filed cloture on the motion to concur on the measure in hopes of passing it before an existing continuing resolution set to expire after midnight. The amended HR-2882 includes $390.2 million for the FCC, $425.7 million for the FTC and $535 million in advance FY 2026 money for CPB. House Appropriations Committee Republicans attempted last year to end that entity's advance funding (see 2307140069).

The Daines-led Supporting National Security with Spectrum Act mirrors language he eyed attaching in January to national security supplemental spending (see 2401240001) that would allocate the full $3.08 billion in additional rip-and-replace funding to the FCC and authorize the commission to reauction the 197 AWS-3 licenses that Dish and affiliated designated entities returned to the FCC last year. The measure would allow the resale to proceed regardless of whether the FCC’s overall spectrum auction authority remains lapsed.

Daines considered filing his proposal as a stand-alone bill earlier but delayed it until after congressional leaders rejected his bid to attach it to the minibus (see 2403150063), lobbyists told us. Daines and bill co-sponsor Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., filed its text as an amendment to HR-2882 Thursday. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is also a co-sponsor of Daines' bill.

The Competitive Carriers Association hailed Daines’ filing of the AWS-3 measure, which the group backed in draft form. As rip-and-replace “participants reach or surpass their prorated funding allocations, carriers are deciding where they will have to reduce or even eliminate wireless service for both their own subscribers and the tens of millions of Americans who roam onto their networks for connectivity,” said CCA President Tim Donovan. “This will be especially harmful for those trying to call 9-1-1 and receive emergency services. Congress must immediately commit to providing these funds to ensure continued connectivity on secure wireless networks. I thank the Senators for prioritizing this critical issue.” On Thursday, Donovan said the lack of rip-and-replace funding in the minibus “will lead to reduced wireless coverage in” the U.S.