Senator working on spectrum legislation

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) wants to scrap the piece-by-piece method that the United States uses to allocated and manage spectrum for government and commercial entities, and intends to offer legislation to improve the system.

Details of his proposal are being worked out and the legislation may be introduced by later this year, Burns said this week.

Burns, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Communications Subcommittee, which handles spectrum allocation, also said that he intends to work closely with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) on the legislation. Stevens is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee' Defense Subcommittee, of which Inouye is the chairman.

Spectrum is a hot topic in communications circles because there is never enough to satisfy all the stakeholders, who use it for services ranging from wireless telephone calls to satellite communications to weapons guidance.

Burns said the future legislation would do nothing to risk national security. He sees it as a possible win-win situation for government agencies, particularly the Defense Department, and the private sector. He said that one possibility would be to upgrade DOD to a different level of spectrum where it would be more contained, which would free other parts of the spectrum for different government or commercial entities.

Megan Morris, Burns' deputy press secretary, said the senator would like to hold hearings on the subject and is waiting for a General Accounting Office report on spectrum issues that is due this summer.

The recommendations in Burns' spectrum legislation will be determined by future hearings and the GAO findings, Morris said, adding that Burns is convinced that the current piecemeal system of distributing and auctioning off spectrum is inefficient.

Burns first announced his intention to offer wireless spectrum legislation on April 8 at a National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas and reported by the Reuters news service.

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