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Senate Commerce Committee Passes Radio Spectrum Inventory Act

in Broadband Data/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2009 -- The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved S. 649, the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act, which would give the National Telecommunications and Information Agency and the Federal Communications Commission 180 days to present Congress with a complete inventory of the radio frequencies that they manage from 300 Megahertz to 3.5 Gigahertz.

The bill, sponsored by committee member Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, requires that the FCC and NTIA also report on how licensed and government-owned spectrum is being used.

In other words, the agencies must report on who owns licenses, how they are being used, and the amount of unauthorized spectrum usage, as well as providing maps indicating locations of transmitting stations, together with signal strength and coverage. It would also require that TV and radio bands undergo the same cataloguing.

Once aggregated, the spectrum inventory would be made publicly-available on a portal managed by each respective agency, and updated to reflect real-time developments and changes. Agencies can petition for their data to be exempted for national security reasons, effective for two years.

"Our public airwaves belong to the American people, and we need to make certain we are putting them to good use in the best interests of those citizens," Kerry said when he introduced the bill back in March.

If passed, the inventory would constitute a systematic attempt to understand how airwaves are being used. The goal is to allocate and better utilize unused frequencies.

Though large telecommunications companies hold licenses to use large swaths of cellular bands, some broadband advocates hope that the inventory will lead to greater unlicensed used of the spectrum for wireless broadband.

In a press release, the wireless industry association CTIA, applauded the committee’s approval.

“As the wireless industry continues to invest to meet consumers' increasing demand for broadband services, we appreciate Senator Kerry and Snowe's commitment to work with stakeholders to fashion a bill that identifies where the next allocation of spectrum for commercial use will come from,” said group CEO Steve Largent in a statement.

“We look forward to working with Senators Kerry and Snowe, Chairman Rockefeller and their colleagues in the House to enact inventory legislation this year,” said Largent.


  1. While on the surface it seems like a simple and logical plan, the devil is in the details here. Having worked on the FCC’s auction system and ULS for years from both the inside and outside I know that data is extremely complex and in many places incomplete. The size and scope of this project shouldn’t be underestimated, but the results of this system could be amazingly useful for managing spectrum more effectively. The database will not only help in public to private transitions but also to encourage innovation by finding spectrum to use with new technologies.

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