New Bill Would Mandate Government Spectrum Valuation

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced a bill that would require the government to come up with a value on the spectrum federal agencies use and report it in their financial statements and in the President's annual budget.

The Government Spectrum Valuation Act requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the FCC to come up with that valuation--NTIA oversees federal spectrum as the FCC does private.

That valuation will be based on what the spectrum would be worth if it were repurposed for licensed or unlicensed commercial wireless services.

Government spectrum holders, like the Department of Defense, are being encouraged to be more efficient with their spectrum so that some of that more of that repurposing and sharing can happen.

The bill addresses one sticking point with many, the fact that historically the government has not attributed a value to unlicensed--which once resided in what were considered "junk bands"--when valuing spectrum.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association backs the bill as a way to "advance the process of reallocating spectrum for more productive, commercial uses."

“NCTA welcomes the introduction of the bipartisan Government Spectrum Valuation Act by Senators Lee and Markey today, which would require federal government agencies to account for the value of their spectrum resources," said the cable trade group. "We applaud the bill’s recognition that the value of spectrum resources can be driven by their potential to be used for either licensed or unlicensed technologies, particularly given recent estimates that unlicensed technologies like Wi-Fi generated over $525 billion in value for the U.S. economy in 2017 alone.”

“Spectrum is critical in the race to 5G," said CCIA President Ed Black. "Next generation 5G broadband networks will require additional spectrum for uses that will power innovation and U.S. competitiveness. Yet much of it is held by the public sector -- the federal government. It is important that federal agencies properly account for their holdings of large swaths of public airwaves. We commend Senators Lee and Markey for attempting to clear the air and promote higher-value uses of spectrum.”

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.