Marco Rubio Wants to Sell Off Government Airwaves

The GOP senator plans to introduce a bill to provide more airwaves for cell phones.

Senator Marco Rubio arrives to speak during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
March 10, 2014, 11:42 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4805) }}

Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Marco Ru­bio plans to in­tro­duce le­gis­la­tion to force fed­er­al agen­cies to sell off their wire­less fre­quen­cies to the highest bid­der.

The goal is to provide ad­di­tion­al spec­trum — the air­waves that carry all wire­less sig­nals — to the private sec­tor to speed up smart­phone con­nec­tions. If cel­lu­lar car­ri­ers don’t have ac­cess to enough spec­trum, their net­works can be­come over­whelmed, lead­ing to dropped calls and stalled videos.

“Wire­less spec­trum now serves the same role as roads and high­ways,” Ru­bio said in a speech Monday at Google’s Wash­ing­ton of­fice out­lining his eco­nom­ic agenda. “It is a crit­ic­al means of con­duct­ing com­merce and get­ting our products to mar­ket. And if spec­trum is the high­way of the di­git­al age, we know that this high­way is get­ting crowded, and traffic will only con­tin­ue to get worse.”

His le­gis­la­tion would provide an ad­di­tion­al 200 mega­hertz of spec­trum for com­mer­cial use, ac­cord­ing to a fact sheet provided by his of­fice. Those fre­quen­cies could provide an eco­nom­ic boost of up to $35 bil­lion and cre­ate as many as 140,000 jobs, his of­fice claimed. But a Ru­bio spokes­wo­man did not provide more in­form­a­tion about the bill, such as wheth­er the le­gis­la­tion spe­cifies which agen­cies would have to give up their spec­trum.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment cur­rently con­trols broad por­tions of spec­trum, which it uses for air-traffic con­trol, to mon­it­or weath­er sys­tems, to al­low law-en­force­ment of­ficers to com­mu­nic­ate with each oth­er, and a host of oth­er pro­grams. The largest gov­ern­ment user of spec­trum is the De­fense De­part­ment, which uses the air­waves for ra­dio com­mu­nic­a­tions, mis­sile guid­ance, satel­lite trans­mis­sions, and oth­er pur­poses.

Des­pite boom­ing com­mer­cial de­mand, fed­er­al agen­cies have been re­luct­ant to give up their spec­trum. The House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee ap­proved a bi­par­tis­an bill last year that would en­cour­age fed­er­al agen­cies to give up their spec­trum by giv­ing them a cut of the rev­en­ue from the spec­trum’s auc­tion.

Ru­bio, an ex­pec­ted 2016 pres­id­en­tial hope­ful, touched upon a num­ber of oth­er eco­nom­ic is­sues in the wide-ran­ging speech. He plans to in­tro­duce a bill to make it form­al U.S. policy to op­pose in­ter­na­tion­al at­tempts to reg­u­late the In­ter­net. The bill would back the cur­rent “multi-stake­hold­er” mod­el of In­ter­net gov­ernance, in which a hand­ful of non­profits make policy de­cisions in con­sulta­tion with busi­nesses and oth­er groups. The House passed sim­il­ar sym­bol­ic le­gis­la­tion last year.

In his speech, Ru­bio also called for trade-pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity for the pres­id­ent, which would make it easi­er to broker trade deals. He said he wants to stream­line reg­u­lat­ory re­view for nat­ur­al-gas pipelines and pushed for an over­haul of the tax code that he said would boost U.S. com­pet­it­ive­ness.

What We're Following See More »
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
1 days ago

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
1 days ago

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
1 days ago

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
1 days ago

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
1 days ago

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.