The House Committee on Energy and Commerce today voted to approve the Spectrum Innovation Act of 2022 (H.R. 7624) which will provide clarity on the auctioning of low gigahertz spectrum mandated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, while also directing up to $3.4 billion of proceeds from the auction to help pay for communications service providers to “rip and replace” untrusted IT equipment from their networks.

“My amendment will use the proceeds from this this spectrum auction to fully fund the FCC reimbursement program to allow carriers to complete their important work to enhance our national security,” said Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, during today’s committee markup session.

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The Trusted Communications and Networks Reimbursement Program – which runs the rip and replace effort – is managed by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireline Competition Bureau.

Through the program as currently funded by Congress, the FCC will use $1.9 billion in funding to reimburse costs of covered network service providers for the removal, replacement, and disposal of communications equipment or services from networks that pose a national security risk, including equipment made by China-based providers Huawei and ZTE.

House members have recently pushed for more funding for the program. Despite $1.9 billion already being allocated to the fund, the FCC estimates that it may cost $5.6 billion to subsidize network service providers in the rip and replace effort.

The measure approved by the committee today would provide another $3.4 billion of funding for the FCC to spend on rip-and-replace reimbursements. In addition to the $1.9 billion already approved by Congress, the size of the program would increase to a total of $5.3 billion. Eventual approval of that increase is far from certain, and still requires the vote of the full House and the Senate, and the President’s signature.

In addition to using proceeds from the spectrum auction to replace untrusted IT equipment, Rep. Latta’s amendment approved by the committee also would direct the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to stand up a grant program to help transition to next-generation 911 services.

Specifically, the amendment would allow up to $10 billion of spectrum auction proceeds to go toward modernizing our nation’s 911 infrastructure.

In addition to the approved amendments, the bill itself will make available additional frequencies in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band for non-Federal use, shared Federal and non-Federal use, or a combination.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.