Cantwell, Kennedy, Schatz Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support 5G, Invest Billions in Broadband, Public Safety

Hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians lack access to wired internet connection at FCC standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, John Kennedy (R-LA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that billions of dollars from a public auction of C-Band spectrum are invested to bridge the digital divide and enable next generation public safety services.

The Spectrum Management and Reallocation for Taxpayers (SMART) Act ensures that the FCC has the authority to expedite the public auction and clearing of the C-Band, while protecting the current users. Public auction proceeds would be invested in rural broadband deployment and building Next Generation 9-1-1 networks. Some funds would also be used to cut the national deficit.

“We need money for rural broadband and not giveaways for foreign satellite companies. This bill is a good bipartisan step forward,” Cantwell said.

“The real winners here are the American taxpayers who not only own the C-Band, but stand to reap the benefits of 5G. Rather than bailing out foreign satellite companies, money from the auction of this spectrum should go to American priorities. This bill gives us the chance to pay down the national debt, improve public safety and get broadband to rural communities that are still handcuffed to dial-up internet,” said Kennedy.

“Our bipartisan bill will raise billions so that more people can access the internet. As technology accelerates, we need to do more to close the digital divide and help ensure that everyone benefits,” said Schatz.

Investing in broadband deployment continues to be critical for Washington state and communities throughout the country. According to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports, 24 million people were unable to access high-speed internet at a fixed location, including hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians.

Senator Cantwell has long fought for more robust, efficient, and cost-effective broadband connectivity for communities throughout Washington state. In 2018, Cantwell helped secure $600 million in funding to boost rural broadband development, and before that she worked with the Makah Tribe and CenturyLink to bring broadband access to Neah Bay, one of the most remote parts of Washington state.