Senate Commerce Committee Passes Kerry's Spectrum Inventory Bill

The Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday passed Senator John Kerry's spectrum inventory
bill, which now goes on to the full Senate.

The bill was introduced by Communications Subcommittee Chairman Kerry (D-MA) back in
March. It would require the FCC and National Telecommunications & Information Administration to report back to Congress with an inventory of the spectrum they manage and how it is being used.

That would include how much unlicensed use is allowed, how much spectrum is being used in
each band, including the TV and radio bands. NTIA and the FCC would also be required to create an online, "near real-time" database so the public could monitor any auction, transfer or change in allocation or assignment of frequencies.

"Spectrum is increasingly becoming a very valuable resource and we need to make sure it is
being used efficiently," Kerry said, adding that he would work with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) on his suggestion that the bill require the measurement of spectrum use according to licenses. He said he was also open to other ideas in what he called a "terrific first step" in reexamining spectrum management.

Warner is said to be "pumped" over the idea of the bill. He is a former wireless executive. He said at the markup that the issue is not only who holds the license, but how it is being used and that there is technology that can measure how those licensees are using the spectrum.

"This is valuable public spectrum," he said, "and making sure we fully utilize it in an efficient way is terribly important."

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) agreed that it was "tremendously important," pointing out that it was public property.

If the bill passes, it will add to a burgeoning agenda of data collection obligations, both self-imposed and otherwise, for a commission the new chairman has pledged will be data-driven. Commissioner Michael Copps, for his part, welcomes the effort, telling B&C that getting a handle on spectrum efficiency will be an important part of the national broadband rollout.

"I think we really need to do that if we are going to have a spectrum-allocation policy for the 21st Century," he said in advance of the bill's passage in the committee.

A similar version of the bill was introduced in the House Wednesday, according to the Mobile Future coalition, which advocates for more wireless access to spectrum.

"Radio spectrum is a rare and valuable resource that is vital to the growth and development of advanced mobile communications technologies and services," said coalition President Jonathan Spalter. "We welcome this congressional initiative, in both the House and the Senate, to ensure that spectrum is being allocated and used efficiently, to the greatest possible advantage of the U.S. economy and the marketplace."

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.