Lawmakers passed the measure by a vote of 408 to 10, paving the way for the government to sell to commercial users airwaves currently used by federal agencies. The proceeds would then be put in a trust fund to cover the cost of moving those agencies to another chunk of the wireless spectrum.
Introduced by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the bill is one of designed to open up more commercial airwaves to accommodate the growing number of U.S. cell phone customers.
"The legislation ensures that sufficient airwaves will be available to support millions of wireless users," said Steve Berry, senior vice president of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), a wireless phone industry trade group.
The proposed Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act must now be approved by the Senate before becoming law.
The bill is part of a broader effort to dramatically overhaul the way the government, the telecommunications industry and others use the U.S. airwaves.
Because of the complex nature of the undertaking, it could be a number of years before such spectrum reform is enacted.