TPI Proposes GSA Model Of Spectrum Leasing

The Technology Policy Institute, whose supporters include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Motion Picture Association of America, has proposed the creation of a Government Spectrum Ownership Corporation (GSOC) to lease spectrum to government agencies much like the General Services Administration does with real estate.

That came in comments to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last week, which asked for input on how to free up government spectrum for commercial broadband uses.

In the short run, TPI suggests making an account of spectrum use part of the OMB annual budgeting process and should be treated as a scarce resource. "In essence, OMB should become a skeptical auditor of government-held spectrum, its use, and its opportunity costs," they argue.

It also suggests incentivizing government employees (cash) to come up with creative ways to economize on spectrum.

But in the long, run, TPI recommends at least exploring the idea of a GSOC. "Suppose, then, that all U.S. government-used spectrum were 'owned' by a central government agency and leased to government users," it says. "In this case, the idea that the spectrum-using agencies should pay rental fees to—and that those rental fees should represent something approximating the opportunity costs of the spectrum holdings—would not be much different from the practice that government agencies pay rent for their use of the GSA’s buildings."

That, says TPI, could provide "sensible" incentives for agencies to economize on spectrum use. "The GSOC might then have a surplus of spectrum that it could sell or lease to the private sector (or turn over to the FCC for auctions). The GSOC could also accumulate a fund (again, similar to GSA) that could be used to purchase additional spectrum if needed for leasing to government agencies," they say.

The White House has charged the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to free up government spectrum for auction via sharing or reclaiming, just as the FCC is charged with finding commercial spectrum to free up for broadband.

The Technology Policy Institute is a think tank supported by cable operators, computer companies and studios.

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.