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Strickling: Government Needs Paradigm Shift in Spectrum Thinking

NTIA chief Larry Strickling said Wednesday that the government needs to come up with a "new paradigm" for freeing up government spectrum, saying the problem with NTIA's own report on a timetable and cost -- 10 years and $18 billion -- was too long and too costly.

That report was based in turn on government agency assessments, so it was not a criticism of his own agency. Instead it was to support NTIA's recommendation that it needs to look into more spectrum sharing as a way to speed the recovery of spectrum, which that report also recommended.

That came at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing Wednesday in which Strickling was pressed by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and others on why it might not be quicker to focus on a 25 MHz swath adjacent to already available commercial spectrum -- something the FCC favors -- rather than on the whole 95 MHz in the 1755-1850 spectrum band it has identified for clearing and sharing.

According to the NTIA report, DOD has said the lower 25 MHz could be fairly quickly cleared, while it could take 10 years and many billions to clear the whole 95 MHz.

He said it was not that easy, that some government users who moved into the band on the advice that they would not be moving again were using all 95 MHz.

Latta asked if there was a third-party vetting of the individual agency estimates that made up that 10 year/$18 billion estimate, saying that they might have a vested interest in trying to guard their spectrum. Strickling said he thought they had worked with individual OMB examiners, but was not sure. But he said that still does not solve the problem with those numbers, which is that the government has to rethink how it frees up spectrum and focus more on sharing so it can free up all 95, not just the 25.

Back in June 2010, the president directed NTIA and the FCC to come up with 500 MHz of spectrum within 10 years. NTIA oversees government spectrum users much as the FCC does commercial ones.

NTIA came up with a 10-year plan for freeing up spectrum; the report outlines the 1755-1850 spectrum that it has concluded can be reclaimed and re-auctioned for wireless, just as the FCC is trying to do with 80-120 MHz of broadcast spectrum, depending on how much it can convince broadcasters to give up.