FSF OFFERS NTIA SIX RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DEVELOPING A SUSTAINABLE SPECTRUM STRATEGY
Free State Foundation President Randolph May, Research Fellow Michael Horney, and Visiting Fellow Greg Vogt submitted
National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with recommendations for developing and implementing new policies and processes that would give federal agencies more information about the value of their spectrum holdings and more incentives to relinquish unused or underutilized spectrum.
The complete set of Free State Foundation comments, with footnotes, is
. Immediately below is the "
Introduction and Summary
" to the comments, without the footnotes.
Introduction and Summary
These comments are submitted by the Free State Foundation (FSF) to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in response to its request for comments for "Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future." In October 2018, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum asking NTIA, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to submit to the President a long-term National Spectrum Strategy.
According to the President's memorandum, the strategy should include legislative, regulatory, or other policy recommendations to “increase spectrum access for all users, including on a shared basis, through transparency of spectrum use and improved cooperation and collaboration between Federal and non-Federal spectrum stakeholders.” In its request, NTIA is seeking comment regarding incentives and enforcement mechanisms to promote efficient and effective spectrum use.
We commend President Trump for focusing his administration on the importance of developing a strategy to promote the efficient use of the spectrum resource and NTIA for the way it is promptly beginning to implement the presidential direction.
Especially with the proliferation of video applications and on-demand services, mobile traffic in the United States is projected to grow fivefold from 2017 to 2022. Commercial licensed spectrum is the lifeblood of mobile and wireless broadband services, and the assignment and allocation of additional spectrum is necessary to keep up with consumer demand. Despite the FCC’s recent efforts to assign and allocate additional spectrum for commercial use, a significant portion of the most valuable spectrum is held by federal agencies and a significant portion of it remains unused or underutilized.
When federal agencies retain unused or underutilized spectrum, this creates a situation with the potential for experiencing a substantial "opportunity cost" for the United States economy. In the context of these comments, opportunity cost means the loss of potential benefits when a more costly alternative regarding spectrum usage is chosen over a less costly one. Allocating unused federally-held spectrum for commercial use would generate billions of dollars in FCC auction revenue and would facilitate the creation of necessary infrastructure investment for next-generation wireless innovations, including specifically 5G deployment. Additionally, the revenues generated from these auctions may be invested in federal programs that positively impact American citizens in a variety of ways.
These comments contain six different policy recommendations. Some of these may overlap, at least in part, in the sense that, if adopted, others may be less important or less relevant. We acknowledge such overlap. But taken together, collectively, the recommendations form a basis for implementing new policies and processes that give federal agencies more information about the value of their spectrum holdings and more incentives to relinquish unused or underutilized spectrum.
If these recommendations are adopted, they would provide a sound basis for establishing a program for shifting unused or underutilized spectrum from federal users to commercial users, thereby creating a larger pool of spectrum holdings for the development of innovative new technologies and services, while, at the same time, ensuring that federal agencies have the spectrum they need to meet essential needs.
Here are our general recommendations:
- NTIA Should Issue an Annual Report Calculating the Market Value of Federal Government Spectrum
- The OMB Should Have a Role in Auditing Federal Spectrum Holdings
- The Spectrum Relocation Fund Should Become a Spectrum Incentive Fund
- Agencies Should Be Assessed Spectrum Fees
- Allow Agencies to Use Spectrum Holdings to Offset Budget Appropriations
- Increase the Transparency and Accountability of Government Spectrum Decisions
The above recommendations are focused primarily on general policies and processes to improve management of government-held spectrum to achieve more efficient use of this valuable resource. They are not focused on specific bands. So, for example, we do not include a recommendation here endorsing the AIRWAVES Act that was introduced in the last session of Congress, even though it had many commendable features. One of the most commendable AIRWAVES Act feature is the establishment of a timeline for auctioning certain identifiable spectrum bands. This creation of a predictable spectrum pipeline based on deadlines is important because predictability is necessary for building and deploying complex wireless networks in an efficient and effective fashion. To the maximum extent possible, predictability – and transparency, which goes hand-in-glove with predictability – should be important features of all spectrum management policies.
A PDF of the FSF comments, with footnotes, is
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Randolph J. Ma
y, President of the Free State Foundation, is a former FCC Associate General Counsel and a former Chairman of the American Bar Association's Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. Mr. May is a past Public Member and a current Senior Fellow of the Administrative Conference of the United States, and a Fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration.
Michael J. Horney is a Research Fellow at The Free State Foundation. He is a recent graduate of George Mason University, where he received a Master of Arts in Economics and was awarded a Mercatus MA Fellowship. He earned his Bachelor of Science with an Economics major and Political Science minor at Towson University. Mr. Horney was an MA Fellow and Research Assistant on policy research at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, focusing on regulations, technology policy, and education policy, and he served as a Graduate Intern for the Committee on Ways and Means' Subcommittee on Social Security.
Gregory J. Vogt, a lawyer, is a Visiting Fellow at The Free State Foundation. Mr. Vogt is a former Deputy Chief of the FCC's Cable Services Bureau, and he also has served as Chief of the Tariff Division, Mobile Services Division, and Enforcement Division in the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau. Mr. Vogt received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Kansas University, and his J.D., cum laude, from Northwestern University Law School, where he served as Executive Editor of the Northwestern University Law Review.