Lawmakers want probe of spectrum management 'breakdown'

The chairman and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders request a review of federal spectrum management.

radio spectrum
 

The two top members of the House committee with oversight of spectrum and telecom policy wants to know what's happening with federal spectrum management, after some agencies appeared reluctant to relinquish the resource.

In a Jan. 24 letter to the Government Accountability Office, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the ranking member, asked the watchdog agency to open an updated review of the federal spectrum management process.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the Department of Commerce is responsible for federal spectrum management processes, while the Federal Communications Commission is responsible for commercial spectrum use.

Pallone and Walden told the GAO they were concerned over "recent federal spectrum management process breakdowns" between the NTIA and the FCC.

Pallone has raised the concern before.

In a July House Energy and Commerce Committee Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing that covered considerable national spectrum policy ground, Pallone said the process to commercialize federal spectrum was chaos.

"Today, the Trump FCC goes one way, the Commerce Department and NTIA go another," he said in his remarks at the hearing. "Then you have other departments throughout the federal government, like the Departments of Transportation, Education and Defense voicing their own opinions about how spectrum should be used," he said, which impacts a "mind-numbing list" of spectrum bands. "In my opinion, the process has completely broken down."

Recent debate on spectrum policy, as well as the FCC's 2.5 GHz auction process and the 24 GHz auctions, they told GAO, showed the process needs work.

"Last year, it was clear that the federal spectrum management process broke down," said Pallone and Walden in their GAO letter. "Rather than working through the NTIA as the central repository and manager of federal spectrum, we are concerned that many of the federal agencies with spectrum allocations may have circumvented this statutory process," they said.

"We request that GAO evaluate how the NTIA, the FCC, and federal spectrum users are coordinating to ensure the nation's airwaves are used to their utmost potential."

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