Pai to Hill: Commerce Pushback on 24 GHz Was Predictable

FCC chairman Ajit Pai went into great detail to explain why the FCC proceeded with the 24 GHz spectrum auction despite concerns by weather forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about interference to their monitoring systems.

That came in letters to concerned Democratic legislators that were released June 25. He told them NOAA and NASA's last-minute "parade of horribles" related to potential interference from wireless emissions was to be predicted in such debates, but were rejected on sound engineering principles.

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

Pai has said that NOAA's concern was based on questionable data and that he is convinced 24 GHz spectrum can be freed up, threatening weather predicting by the NOAA.

Government entities do have a history of being protective of their spectrum, and they are increasingly being asked to find ways to be more efficient so more spectrum can be freed for commercial use.

When pressed at a Senate FCC oversight hearing, Pai said Commerce had been blocking and undermining the FCC's efforts "at every single turn," and that that had gotten worse since former National Telecommunications & Information chief David Redl resigned.

In his letter, Pai provided a timeline of how the process of protecting passive weather satellites in the 24 GHz auction process went down, a process he summed up as the result of "sound science and engineering" (on the FCC's part), as opposed to "exaggerated and unverified last-minute assertions" (NOAA and NASA, which also has issues) based on "unvalidated and badly flawed" studies, studies he suggests flout international guidelines on "reasonable input parameters."

Pai laid out the bottom line on the NOAA and NASA emission issues: "Advocacy is often characterized by claims of harmful interference by incumbents—and riddled with a parade of horribles that have no basis in reality. So it is unsurprising that we have not yet found any credible evidence or validated study showing that existing limits will insufficiently protect weather-sensing satellites. In contrast, adopting the limits suggested by the Department of Commerce would undeniably render the 24 GHz band unusable for 5G."

If so, that would defeat the purpose of the auction, which was to free up more spectrum for next-gen wireless service and closing the digital divide, the FCC's top priority Pai has said often and did so again this week.

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.