The Time has Come for Increased Spectrum Coordination | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Time has Come for Increased Spectrum Coordination

The WasteWatcher

Coordination of spectrum management across federal agencies has been haphazard at best. 

While the recent spat between the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over deployment of 5G networks using C-band spectrum appears to be quickly resolving, and more 5G networks using C-band spectrum are being added daily, the problem with federally held spectrum coordination continues to be an ongoing issue across the federal government. 

On February 15, 2022, the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) took an important step toward improving coordination by announcing the creation of the Spectrum Coordination Initiative.  This initiative follows a January 13, 2022 letter from Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) calling for greater coordination between the two agencies and a renewal of their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which had not been updated since 2003. 

Spectrum is a limited and valuable resource for future communications and technologies across all industries and is an important driver of the U.S. economy.  It is also a vital resource for several federal agencies, with specific use cases.  Because of its scarcity, spectrum requires stringent management that juggles near-term allocations that are appropriate to current technology needs and planning toward the future changes in the technology landscape.  This is where federally held spectrum comes into play.  A February 17, 2022, Government Accountability Office (GAO) report spotlighted 20 agencies that use federal spectrum allocations, and the technology each agency uses to manage their allocations.  The GAO report also noted that there are “opportunities covered agencies and NTIA identified for improving spectrum management through IT modernization.”

Having greater coordination between agencies is a good first step toward enhancing the way that spectrum is used across federal agencies.  It also opens the door toward opportunities for spectrum sharing agreements with the private sector to facilitate the deployment of next generation communications technology.  NTIA and FCC have taken an important first step toward that effort by signing the MOU to create the Spectrum Coordination Initiative. 

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