Obama orders agencies to make spectrum available


The White HouseIn the effort to support the propagation of wireless technologies, including improving access to wireless broadband, President Barack Obama has ordered all spectrum-holding federal entities to explore ceding or sharing spectrum in ways that do not endanger their core mission.

Obama wrote, “Although existing efforts will almost double the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband, we must make available even more spectrum and create new avenues for wireless innovation. One means of doing so is by allowing and encouraging shared access to spectrum that is currently allocated exclusively for Federal use. Where technically and economically feasible, sharing can and should be used to enhance efficiency among all users and expedite commercial access to additional spectrum bands, subject to adequate interference protection for Federal users, especially users with national security, law enforcement, and safety-of-life responsibilities. In order to meet growing Federal spectrum requirements, we should also seek to eliminate restrictions on commercial carriers’ ability to negotiate sharing arrangements with agencies. To further these efforts, while still safeguarding protected incumbent systems that are vital to Federal interests and economic growth, this memorandum directs agencies and offices to take a number of additional actions to accelerate shared access to spectrum.”

Several members of the Inside-the-Beltway community weighed in to support the President’s proposal.

* Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn: I want to applaud President Obama for his leadership on this critical issue for our nation’s economic growth and global competitiveness.  Today’s Presidential Memorandum will enable us to meet the challenge of unleashing spectrum for commercial use while also ensuring more efficient use of spectrum.  Doing so means more opportunity for all Americans – greater access to jobs, healthcare, education, and more.  The FCC will continue to work closely with NTIA, other federal partners, and all stakeholders to achieve the goals set forth by the President in this Memorandum.

* Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel: President Obama has recognized the importance of finding new spectrum to ensure America’s leadership in mobile broadband.  We are on a hunt for new opportunities for commercial spectrum to reach the 500 megahertz benchmark for new wireless broadband use in the Executive Order from the President nearly three years ago.  Our traditional three-step process for reallocating federal spectrum—clearing federal users, relocating them, and then auctioning the cleared spectrum for new use—is reaching its limits.  That is why since my first days in office I have endorsed building our federal spectrum policy on carrots, not sticks.  I strongly support the initiatives outlined in the Presidential Memorandum, especially using incentives as a catalyst for freeing more federal spectrum for commercial use.  These initiatives are a significant step towards meeting the country’s spectrum needs.  I look forward to working with our federal partners as we strive to reach the President’s goals.

* Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV): Spectrum is the lifeblood of our Nation’s wireless economy. It is a scarce public resource that must be used wisely. That’s why I applaud today’s Presidential Memorandum: it represents an innovative new strategy to help meet our Nation’s growing spectrum needs. Providing greater transparency; directing federal agencies to be more efficient and to provide data on their actual spectrum use; calling for incentives for federal users to share or relinquish spectrum are all critical to identifying more spectrum.

* Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA): I commend President Obama for issuing today’s Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to enhance the efficiency of their use of spectrum and to eventually make more capacity available for consumer and business uses.  The initiatives outlined in the Memorandum should generate ideas and solutions to provide federal users with better tools to fulfill their missions while ensuring our nation’s long-term spectrum needs are met. I also appreciate the Obama Administration’s continuing focus on making more spectrum available for wireless broadband and technological innovation.  As the accompanying report on broadband growth released today demonstrates, annual investment in U.S. wireless networks has grown dramatically over the past four years and is a major driver of job creation and future competitiveness.  I am pleased that the Administration is continuing to build on its efforts to encourage and facilitate such investment and growth. 

* Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA): I welcome the administration’s creation of a spectrum policy team, operating as a joint venture between federal agencies uniquely positioned to maximize the efficiency and value of our nation’s airwaves. Relinquishing or sharing underutilized spectrum can yield more efficient use of this limited resource and help to propel our communications economy even further into the digital age.

RBR-TVBR observation: While digging up any extra spectrum at all is a good thing, we don’t think it’s going to placate the interests that are interesting in taking over space in television’s band. The portion of spectrum used by television has unique properties that puts it in the beachfront property class of spectrum, and the interested parties are likely going to come after it no matter how much other spectrum is put at their disposal.