NTIA launches Spectrum.gov

The inventory of agency spectrum shows just how complicated it could be to share bandwidth.

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.

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