Agencies Need to Stop Fighting for Unneeded Spectrum | Citizens Against Government Waste

Agencies Need to Stop Fighting for Unneeded Spectrum

The WasteWatcher

In the continuing saga of federal agencies holding tight to unused spectrum assets that are needed for the U.S. to win the race to 5G, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai remains on their “most wanted” list. The latest unwarranted attack on Chairman Pai showed up in a July 2, 2020 Politico article, which alleges that the only winners in his efforts to free up much-needed and mostly unused (in some cases for decades) spectrum assets held by federal agencies are the providers that will connect millions of Americans across the country to broadband and the internet. That is the wrong way to look at the great strides made by Chairman Pai to deploy unused spectrum assets, hold auctions, and ensure that those assets are used to their fullest potential, whether for 5G deployment or advanced Wi-Fi services.  

Indeed, rather than allow some soon-to-be-deployed spectrum stay unused during the pandemic, the FCC provided temporary licenses to several providers to allow them to use the spectrum to connect homes across the country, which proved to be invaluable to the businesses, families, and students who otherwise would have been left without access. These are the same people who would be denied access to the internet if various federal agencies held on to their spectrum, so it is both inaccurate and disingenuous to say the providers are the beneficiaries of the decisions being made by Chairman Pai and the FCC.

For example, the L-Band spectrum is well-suited to deploy next generation 5G networks as proposed by the petition from Ligado Networks, yet the Department of Defense suddenly decided that it must maintain its stranglehold, despite more than five years of expert evaluation of this band by engineers at the FCC that found it would work. The 5.9 GHz spectrum band has also travelled a bumpy road built by the Department of Transportation, which did basically nothing with the specific technology that was designated for that spectrum since 1999. The claims that the agencies were shut out of the process are simply not true. They just lost their arguments and are now complaining about the result.

For nearly four years, the FCC under Chairman Pai’s leadership has moved quickly to address the ever-changing telecommunications needs of the nation. Rather than putting a target on his back for doing his job efficiently and effectively, he and all the hard-working commissioners and employees at the FCC should be applauded for a job well done. The race to 5G is not only an economic issue, it is also a national security issue, and one would think there would be unanimous support across the federal government to make sure the U.S. wins this battle.