The future of US spectrum auctions planned for later this year hang in the balance, as President Donald Trump weighs whether to veto a massive $1.3 trillion budget bill which includes key telecom provisions.
Among the measures attached to the budget package is Ray Baum’s Act, which extends the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority and fixes a procedural obstacle currently preventing the commission from holding spectrum auctions.
The act also directs the FCC to identify 255MHz of licensed and unlicensed spectrum for wireless use by the end of 2022 and allocates additional funds to cover broadcaster relocations in the wake of 2017’s 600MHz auction.
Separately, the spending plan sets aside $600 million to fund a new loan and grant pilot program for rural broadband deployments.
Industry groups including CTIA and NTCA applauded the inclusion of such provisions after the budget package was approved in both chambers of Congress. But the president’s signature is required to turn the bill into law, and Trump on today (23 March) threatened to issue a veto over the absence of full funding for his proposed wall along the US-Mexico border.
Trump had until midnight to issue a decision before funding for the government runs out and a shutdown ensues.
The budget plan also includes the so-called Cloud Act, which establishes a framework for governments and law enforcement agencies to access user data across international borders. Specifically, the measure gives the US Attorney General discretion to enter into reciprocal agreements with foreign countries for data exchanges.
Microsoft president Brad Smith praised the Cloud Act as a “critical step forward in resolving an issue that has been the subject of litigation for over four years”.
But critics like American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Neema Gulani contend the measure circumvents judicial and Congressional oversight, threatening “activists abroad, individuals here in the US” and empowering the Attorney General “in new disturbing ways”.