White House Issues Spectrum Policy Proposals

The Bush Administration released two lengthy reports Thursday with its recommendations to better manage the nation’s increasingly crowded airwaves.

The proposal includes limiting the interference protection afforded to incumbents using inefficient technologies.

Releasing more spectrum for private sector use is a key component of
President Bush’s goal of universal, affordable access to broadband by 2007. The president is also calling for reduced taxes and less federal regulations for wireless broadband technologies.

“This [wireless broadband] is a very exciting opportunity for the country. The problem is, it requires a spectrum that is not now available,” Bush said Thursday in a technology speech at the Department of Commerce.

“And so Congress needs to make the spectrum
available. If we want to achieve the goal of broadband in every corner of the country by 2007, we need to make more spectrum available.”

Despite the objections of federal agencies such as the Department of Defense about potential interference problems, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), at the urging of the Bush administration, has already made
significant amounts of spectrum available for private sector applications.

The FCC rulings include 255 MHz in the 5 GHz band for wireless broadband networks, 90 MHz in the 1.7 and 2.1 GHz band for 3G wireless services and
the entire 3-10 band for ultra wideband devices (UWB).

“One of things we need to do is unlock the spectrum’s value — economic
value and entrepreneurial potential — without crowding out important
government functions. And we can do both,” Bush said.

The new wireless broadband to be deployed in the 5 GHz band utilizes spread
spectrum technology designed to jump across a large number of frequencies.
Combined with dynamic frequency selection capability, the technology can
sense the presence of other operators before transmitting and make a
decision about which frequency to transmit.

According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
(NTIA), the administration’s agency in charge of spectrum used by the
government, the technology can co-exist without interference in bands
previously exclusively reserved for government radar systems.

Similarly, UWB technologies combine very short transmission pulses with very
wide bandwidths. Although UWB operates at power levels low enough to
classified by the FCC as unlicensed devices, the bandwidths are so wide they
must emit portions of their signals in bands unavailable to unlicensed

During the often fierce debate at
the FCC over authorizing UWB devices, government agencies continually
complained about the potential interference problems with radar.

The interference debates between government agencies and the private
sectors, prompted President Bush to issue a memorandum in June of last year
outlining the administration’s plans for spectrum management reform.

“Under the existing framework, the government generally reviews every change
in spectrum use, a process that is often slow and inflexible and can
discourage the introduction of new technology,” Bush wrote.

The memorandum called for the Department of Commerce to develop a U.S.
spectrum policy for the 21st Century. Specifically, the president directed
the Department of Commerce to develop policy tools to streamline the
“deployment of new and expanded services and technologies , while preserving
national security, homeland security, public safety and encouraging
scientific research.”

Thursday’s report by the NTIA contain the outlines of the proposed policies.
The guidelines contain 24 specific recommendations including encouraging
Congress to enact legislation that provides the FCC with permanent authority
to conduct spectrum auctions and to collect fees for spectrum use.

The reports also call for the establishment of economic incentives such as
FCC policies granting access to new bands of spectrum to users deploying
“demonstrably non-interfering technology.”

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