The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Freeing Up Government Held Spectrum

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On December 11, 2013, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to approve a bi-partisan measure that would provide incentives to federal agencies to free up more spectrum.

The federal government is the largest holder of spectrum below the 3 GHz range.  According to the National Telecommunications and Information Agency, the U.S. government currently has exclusive rights to more than 638 MHz of spectrum and shares another 1,030 MHz with commercial users.  On January 3, 2013, Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai discussed the need for the federal government to relinquish some of its unused spectrum for mobile use.  According to Pai, almost 60 percent of the spectrum best used for mobile devices is currently held by the federal government, and unavailable for private sector use. 

H.R. 3674, the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act would give agencies a monetary incentive to relinquish some of their unused spectrum for auction, and makes much needed spectrum available for private mobile use.  The legislation provides for a voluntary government spectrum auction similar to the upcoming broadcaster incentive auctions.  A portion of the auction proceeds would be returned to the agencies to help meet their budget obligations.  The remainder would be used for deficit reduction. 

This bi-partisan effort is a key step toward opening up more spectrum to private sector mobile use while giving federal agencies the incentive to relinquish unused spectrum and better manage their existing spectrum holdings.

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