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Public Knowledge Pitches Zero-Based Spectrum Budgets

Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld has proposed a couple of different ways for the federal government to modify its spectrum-use policies that he suggests will make for more efficient use and easier and more flexible access.

Those suggestions came in two papers released as part of a Capitol Hill conference on spectrum management.

In one, Feld argues for dynamic, real-time leasing of federal spectrum rather than having to clear and auction entire bands, a process that can take, and has taken, years. He says the proposal combines the database/sharing mechanism the FCC has approved for sharing spectrum in the so-called white spaces between TV channels with the real-time auction process used for Internet advertising.

He says the proposal would not be a substitute for spectrum auctions or unlicensed spectrum, but would be another way to provide more access to spectrum while collecting revenue for the treasury.

The FCC has made reclaiming more spectrum for wireless broadband a centerpiece of its National Broadband Plan.

His other suggestion is to essentially zero out all federal agencies' spectrum holdings and make them reapply for what they actually need from a common pool of available spectrum, using five-year spectrum budgets to project future needs. He says that would remove the current disincentive for federal spectrum managers to become more transparent and efficient -- the disincentive being that to do so would mean losing spectrum.

"Federal spectrum managers understand that the 'reward' for transparency and efficiency is to lose spectrum, which in turn makes it more difficult for them to carry out their responsibilities," he argues. "As a result, they have resisted efforts to enhance transparency or modify the existing allocation process."

Feld wants the president to require all agencies to prepare a spectrum budget as they would their federal budget and defend their allocation or face losing it.

His goal he says is not simply to free up spectrum for the private sector, but also to bring more transparency and efficiency to the government's use of its spectrum.