House Leaders Slam Trump Admin Spectrum Infighting

The bipartisan leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee is not pleased with the infighting between the FCC and National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) over spectrum policy.

That came at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on spectrum management Tuesday (July 16).

The most prominent falling-out is over the FCC's recent auction of high band spectrum in the 24 GHz band for 5G.

Commerce has registered concerns over the impact of out-of-band emissions on remote satellite weather sensing--hurricane prediction, for example--though FCC chair Ajit Pai has said that was based on questionable data and he is convinced 24 GHz spectrum can be freed up without threatening weather predicting by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He has pointed out that there is guard band between the 24 GHz spectrum auctioned and the adjacent spectrum being used by NOAA.

Pai told the Senate at an oversight hearing last month that the Department of Commerce has been blocking and undermining the FCC's 24 GHz efforts "at every single turn," and has gotten worse since former National Telecommunications & Information David Redl resigned.

But there have been other flashpoints, including between the FCC and the Department of Education over the FCC's decision to decommission the 2.5 GHz band from exclusive educational (EBS) licenses so it could also be shared for next-gen wireless, and between the Department of Transportation and 5G fans over use of spectrum that had been allocated for vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

At the hearing, Subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Energy & Commerce chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said the process had broken down and that when cabinet members were fighting with the FCC over spectrum policy it was cause for concern.

They said they process appeared to be broken, and the American people would suffer.

Full committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) also called it "a bit troubling" and said he was also expressing his "dissatisfaction with what is happening."

And what was happening still seemed to be happening

Doyle asked witness Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, about a letter to Congress about a compromise that had been reached on interference protections in the 24 GHz band.

Related: Sen. Johnson Seeks Commerce Data on 24 GHz Pushback

Knapp said it was his understanding that there was no such compromise, though talks about one continued.

Witness Derek Khlopin, senior policy adviser for NTIA, conceded that talks were indeed still ongoing, but that it was his understanding that Ross did indeed think a compromise had been reached, or was close, though he didn't want to put words in the Secretary's mouth.

Related: NTIA: Spectrum Policy Must Move Beyond Piecemeal, Band-by-Band Actions

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.