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Sens. Rubio, Warner Concerned About NTIA Spectrum Reclamation

Sens. Mario Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) have asked NTIA chief Larry Strickling for answers on what the agency is doing to free up government spectrum, particularly given the president's June 14 memo on spurring wireless innovation and in light of a GAO study from April 2011 that concluded NTIA "cannot ensure that spectrum is being used efficiently by federal agencies" and "has limited ability to monitor federal spectrum use."

The president has made freeing up spectrum for broadband a national priority, and the NTIA has been charged with finding underutilized government spectrum that can either be vacated or shared. It has so far identified over 200 MHZ of government spectrum.

The FCC is preparing to auction as much as 120 MHz of commercial spectrum -- likely closer to 80 MHZ or less given Canadian and Mexican border issues -- reclaimed from broadcasters.

The FCC and NTIA are working together to find 500 MHz for wireless broadband over the next 10 years.

In a letter to Strickling dated July 19, a copy of which was supplied by Warner's office, they wanted the following questions answered, saying, "Without effective NTIA management and oversight, we have serious reservations about the agency's ability to maximize spectrum efficiency and relinquish portions of federal spectrum."

• "What specific measures has NTIA taken to address the findings in the 2011 GAO report and improve spectrum management?

• "What specific steps will NTIA take, over the next 6 to 12 months to carry out the directives of the memorandum?

• "When analyzing federal agency use of spectrum under Sec. 3 of the Presidential Memorandum, how will NTIA ensure that agencies' assessments are accurate?

• "What tools are in place to assess how federal agencies are using assigned spectrum, and how will NTIA hold agencies accountable for the valuable spectrum they occupy? Specifically, how will NTIA ensure federal agencies are maximizing spectrum efficiency?

• "How does NTIA assess fees on federal agencies for spectrum assignments? Does the agency believe the current structure provides the proper incentives for agencies to increase spectrum efficiency? Will this fee structure be examined when implementing the Presidential Memorandum?

• "Would it be helpful for NTIA to designate a 'trusted agent' structure to liaise between federal agencies charged with providing classified systems capabilities and private sector representatives seeking information on spectrum usage in areas currently used for national security and intelligence functions? If so, please explain how soon such a process could be implemented."

The letter came the same day a bill was introduced that would mandate that the government free up a swath of government spectrum for wireless broadband that NITA has identified for possible reclamation.

At press time, an NTIA spokesperson said it had just received the letter and had no comment "at this time."