NTIA launches Spectrum.gov

large broadcasting antenna

Federal regulators are moving ahead with plans to open large swathes of the federal spectrum for sharing with the private sector. Although concrete changes are still at least a few years away, agencies are seeking to comply with a 2013 presidential directive to report on their spectrum holdings and use, with the goal of identifying opportunities for sharing.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Commerce Department component that manages federal spectrum holdings, has just launched Spectrum.gov to warehouse the inventory reports. The site does not have visualizations, open-source APIs or extensible datasets. Instead, it is a page on NTIA's main website that offers a series of reports on government spectrum holdings in the bands from 225 MHz to 5 GHz.

The reports, organized by band, give a sense of the complexity involved in opening federal spectrum to commercial use. For instance, the 420-450 MHz band includes 11 federal users and 2,450 applications. Federal uses include mobile land radio, fixed and mobile satellite, radio astronomy, ship-to-shore communications, air-to-air communications, aircraft landing systems, space communications, radio transmitters on weather balloons, and research and development. Some bands are crowded with federal users while others have just a few highly localized government applications or none at all.

The data is locked up in PDFs, so it will take some effort to "liberate" the information, in the parlance of open-data activists, and present it in more accessible formats along the lines of the Federal Communications Commission's Spectrum Dashboard. But the raw materials are now available to create an interactive map of federal spectrum holdings and use, broken down by band, application type and federal agency.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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