Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules governing how wireless broadband providers can share the airwaves with Government users, adopting an innovative model first proposed earlier this year by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in its landmark report, Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth. The FCC action comes amidst an array of Administration initiatives aimed at freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband in order to drive productivity, jobs, and innovation, while also protecting the essential Government systems – including public safety, law enforcement, border protection, and military defense -- that also rely on spectrum and are relied upon by the American taxpayer. It is this type of public-private commitment and collaboration that is crucial to maintaining America’s leadership in the development and use of advanced wireless technologies.
Reflecting PCAST’s recommendation to apply creative approaches to spectrum sharing, the FCC’s proposal would allow sharing of certain parts of the spectrum under a three-tiered prioritization scheme, allowing two new categories of commercial use into a radio band that until now has been reserved for exclusive use by the Government. The proposed rules would ensure absolute protection of the vital Government systems operating at those frequencies; a more limited degree of access for commercial users who, within limits, could use those frequencies outside of Government protected zones; and a third class of “general authorized access” that would be engineered so as to avoid interference with the first two categories. All users would be required to register in a database, so market participants could make informed decisions about when and where to deploy their systems. While these proposed rules would, if adopted, govern only one slice of the radiofrequency spectrum, they offer a window into how sharing of Government spectrum can become an important component of the more efficient approach to spectrum management called for by President Obama.
Followers of the PCAST will also be interested in this week’s report from the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council on how improved receiver performance can help drive greater spectrum efficiency, another critical issue spotlighted by the PCAST in its report.
The FCC’s action today follows a multi-pronged Administration strategy to address the growing demand for spectrum. For example:
Congratulations to the FCC, NTIA and PCAST for their groundbreaking work to harness the full potential of the airwaves.
Tom Power is the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Telecommunications at OSTP.