FCC, NTIA Agree to Formal Spectrum (Management) Sharing

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The FCC and National Telecommunications & Information Administration have announced a new initiative to improve their coordination of spectrum management, including holding formal, monthly meetings between the agency heads and letting the agencies observe the others' spectrum advisory arms.

That comes after the two agencies have sparred over issues including potential interference from 5G to vehicle-to-vehicle communications, GPS, and air traffic safety systems, and after Congress made it clear they needed to play better together in the spectrum sandbox.

Also: Lawmakers Lay Into Industry, Government, Over Spectrum Issues

The new initiative, according to the office of FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel, means both sides will make an effort "to strengthen the processes for decision making and information sharing and to work cooperatively to resolve spectrum policy issues."

In addition to serving as the White House's chief communications policy advisor, NTIA, which is a part of the Department of Commerce, oversees government spectrum use just as the FCC does over commercial users. That is where the tension has come as the FCC frees up more spectrum for 5G in and alongside bands used for other purposes, including the Defense Department.

Rosenworcel's office said that she and NTIA head Alan Davidson had pledged to do the following:

· "Reinstate High Level Meetings. For the first time, the Chair of the FCC and the Assistant Secretary will hold formal, regular meetings, beginning monthly, to conduct joint spectrum planning. This will go above and beyond the existing statutory requirement, as well as the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies, which provides that the Chair and the Assistant Secretary meet twice each calendar year.

· "Reaffirm Roles and Responsibilities. Building on NTIA’s statutory role as manager of the federal government’s use of spectrum, the FCC and NTIA will update the nearly twenty-year-old Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies to address gaps in government coordination and to better reflect today’s spectrum opportunities and challenges.

· "Renew Efforts to Develop a National Spectrum Strategy. To secure America’s leadership, the FCC and NTIA will collaborate to help inform the development of a national spectrum strategy, increase transparency around spectrum use and needs, and establish long-term spectrum planning and coordination.

· "Recommit to Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking. The FCC and NTIA will work cooperatively to develop processes for spectrum engineering compatibility analysis. These will include a compilation of principles, guidelines, accepted technical standards, interference protection criteria, propagation models, and other characteristics.

In written testimony for an NTIA oversight hearing in Congress Wednesday (Feb. 15), Davidson said: "As I stated during my confirmation hearing, I am committed to working toward a coordinated, national approach to spectrum use and planning to meet current and future demands."

· "Revamp Technical Collaboration. The FCC and NTIA will foster proactive technical exchange and engagement with industry and other federal agencies by participating in cross-agency advisory groups. To start, the FCC will participate as an observer in the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee, and NTIA will participate as an observer in the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council and the Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council." 

"WISPA welcomes the FCC’s and NTIA’s renewed commitments to improve U.S. government coordination on spectrum management," said Louis Peraertz, VP of policy for the wireless internet service providers association. "WISPA supports strong and updated procedures, coordination, and information sharing.  With both agencies at the forefront of the spectrum revolution, these efforts can only benefit our economy, promote competition, and spur technological innovation," he said. "This will enrich wireless consumers –especially those in rural, urban, Tribal and other areas where broadband connectivity is lacking."■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.