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Evidence-Based Policy Making is Particularly Important in Managing Radio Frequency Spectrum



Screenshot from one of the Silicon Flatirons panels

October 23, 2020 – Evidence-based policy making needs to be framed by the correct questions, agreed panelists at the Silicon Flatirons event on October 13 and 15.

In the first panel, “Evidence-based policy making in perspective,” Adam Scott, director general of spectrum policy at Innovation, Science and Economic Development in Canada, contrasted the questions, “Should we make broadband a human right?” with, “What are the social and economic benefits of connecting a community that hasn’t been connected yet?”

He asserted that the first question is more philosophical and doesn’t directly ask for data, while the second question can be answered very succinctly with data.

Marrying data and decision-making is the best way to think about evidence-based policy making, said Renee Gregory, senior regulatory affairs advisor at Google and moderator of a session on spectrum sharing. She was speaking about work by Thyaga Nandagopal of the National Science Foundation, who had discussed innovate the current spectrum allocation model.

Additionally, evidence-based policy making does not rely on data gathered to answer funded questions, said Blair Levin, nonresident senior fellow of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Levin did allow that to make room for innovation it was sometimes difficult to make policies based on evidence. He cited the theoretical work the FCC did when they made the spectrum policy auctions, pointing out that work wasn’t evidence-based because nothing like that had been done before.

How legislators view evidence-based data

Kate O’Connor, member of the chief telecom counsel’s office for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that in a world of information overload, nearly every person could find information to support their position. Therefore, data needed to be considered holistically.

O’Connor said the communications space was unique because it was so new. The spectrum crunch is a lot different than in the past, and the private sector has more resources than the government in some cases.

There’s bipartisan consensus that the FCC hasn’t done a good job of collecting data, said Levin. He suggested having real experts used to looking at data examine the types of data needed for effective spectrum policy.

Scott Wallsten, president and senior fellow at Technology Policy Institute, said that a lot of the FCC’s data collection methods are really antiquated. He said we should be supplementing our data with surveys like the ones in the Bureau of Labor Statistics and added that it would be nice see the two agencies work together better. He also advocated for transparency in data submission, saying transparency allowed for contextual data interpretation.

Giulia McHenry, chief of the office of economics and analytics at the Federal Communications Commission, agreed that transparency helps to remove biases when examining evidence.

Others stress the need for enforcement in spectrum management

Dale Hatfield, spectrum policy initiative co-director and distinguished advisor at Silicon Flatirons, said in a later event that evidence-based policy making could prove futile without proper enforcement, and said the FCC should delegate some of their statutory power to private industry.

The better the hypothesis, the lower the cost and burden on a company like Hawkeye to help, said Chris Tourigny, electronics engineer at the Federal Aviation Administration, at the “Spectrum Sharing Policy among Active and Passive Service” panel on Thursday.

Panelists Jennifer Manner, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at EchoStar Corporation, and Ashley Zauderer, program director in the division of astronomical sciences at NSF, emphasized the need for being open to amending data along the way.

The importance of continued communication in policy making was also discussed. Stefanie Tompkins, vice president for research and technology transfer at the Colorado School of Mines, shared that years ago they worked with a communications company to get a software package for multipath technology.

They found many of their signals bouncing and going longer than thought they should, which “led to many middle of the night panic attacks.” The communications company had rounded the speed of light—a cultural mismatch that led to a lot of mistakes. Tompkins said this experience applies to how we interpret facts.

David Redl, of Salt Point Strategies, moderated the first policy making panel.


Senators Join CFTB’s Chairman in Calling for Crypto Regulation in Light of FTX Implosion

CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam called on Congress to institute robust disclosure regimes and barriers against conflicts of interest.



Screenshot of Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2022 – The swift collapse of crypto exchange FTX is fortifying the public resolve of federal legislators and regulators to expand the executive branch’s power in digital asset markets, a Senate committee heard Thursday. 

Rostin Behnam, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, told the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry committee his agency needs further statutory authority to protect consumers from harms in the digital assets space. The continued solvency of LedgerX, the only FTX affiliate subject to CFTC scrutiny, testifies to the efficacy of regulatory oversight, Behnam argued.

To prevent the recurrence of debacles like the FTX crash, Behnam called on Congress to institute a robust disclosure regime as well as barriers against conflicts of interest. Committee members denounced FTX’s failures and mirrored Behnam’s calls for congressional action.

A bill to further regulate digital asset markets has already been introduced, and continued revelations of FTX’s extensive mismanagement highlight its importance, supporters say.

Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., in August sponsored the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act, which, in addition to enacting transparency and conflict-of-interest provisions, would require digital commodity platforms to register with the CFTC, crack down on allegedly abusive trading practices, and set cybersecurity standards.

“To be clear: there currently is no federal market regulation of spot crypto assets that are not securities. These include Bitcoin and Ether, the two most heavily traded crypto assets,” Stabenow said in prepared opening comments. “The Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act does exactly that,” she added.

A spokesperson for Stabenow on Thursday told Broadband Breakfast there is not yet “a firm timeline” for the DCCPA’s passage.

“Millions of Americans have been scammed by this colossal FTX failure,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, a co-sponsor of the DCCPA. “Their exposure has lost a lot of folks their resources, and for some people, their hopes and dreams and security.”

One senator, Kansas Republican Rodger Marshall, suggested instituting a “pause” on digital asset exchanges until effective regulatory tools are developed.

FTX was once considered a paradigm of crypto done right and founder Sam Bankman-Fried a visionary entrepreneur. Bankman-Fried – often referred to as “S.B.F.” – garnered much media attention and distinguished himself as an advocate of crypto regulation.

In early November, CoinDesk reported that FTX’s sister trading company, Alameda Research, had a balance sheet flush with FTX’s house digital currency, FTT. Shortly thereafter, rival exchange Binance announced it would dump its own FTT holdings, which sparked a massive user run on FTX and a correspondingly dire liquidity crisis. 

Binance agreed to acquire the flailing FTX but almost immediately reversed course, saying FTX was beyond saving. FTX filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on November 11 and Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO. 

Further reports revealed that FTX had improperly siphoned billions of dollars in customer investments to Alameda’s risky investments. Such allegations of mismanagement have only amplified public outcry over the meltdown, which has cost FTX users billions of dollars.

FTX’s new chief, John J. Ray III, the executive who guided Enron through bankruptcy, wrote in a recent filing that he has never “seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here.”

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Amazon Asks FCC to Allow Drones in 60-64 GHz Band in Preparation For New Delivery Service

Limited customer-facing operations are scheduled to begin this year for Amazon’s drone delivery service.



Photo of Jaime Hjort, Amazon's head of wireless and spectrum policy

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2022 – Amazon on Friday continued its campaign to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to allow near–ground level drones to utilize the 60–64 GigaHertz band, a move the company said would make drone operations safer.

Amazon has long developed Amazon Prime Air, its drone-based delivery service. Then-CEO Jeff Bezos made a dramatic TV reveal in 2013, and limited customer-facing operations are scheduled to begin this year.

Allowing radar applications in this band would improve “a drone’s ability to sense and avoid persons and obstacles in and near its path without causing harmful interference to other spectrum users,” argued Friday’s letter, signed by Jaime Hjort, head of wireless and spectrum policy, and Kristine Hackman, senior manager of public policy.

In an October filing, cited in Friday’s letter, Amazon laid out its case more fully, stating that the proposed drone activity in the band would not clash with the existing operations of earth-exploration satellite services.

The company urged the commission to adopt a new perspective on drones, a novel technology: “A drone package delivery operating near ground level operates much more like a last-mile delivery truck than a cargo plane,” the October filing read.

Spectrum allocation is a top priority for lawmakers and experts, alike. Many believe increased spectrum access is vital to the development of next-generation 5G and 6G technologies as well as general American economic success.

In August, the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration – overseers of non-federal and federal spectrum, respectively – announced an updated memorandum of understanding to better coordinate Washington’s spectrum policy. In September, the FCC announced the winners of the 2.5 GHz auction and approved a notice seeking comment on the 12.7–13.25 GHz band the next month.

A senior NTIA official in October stated his agency would create “spectrum strategy” that will rely heavily on public input.

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Semiconductor Export Restrictions Could Harm U.S. Companies, Industry Says

The United States acted unilaterally, and its allies are not yet ‘on board,’ said the Semiconductor Industry Association.



Photo of Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association

WASHINGTON, November 4, 2022 – The Department of Commerce’s recent export restrictions on semiconductors will make American companies less competitive in global markets unless U.S. allies agree to abide by similar measures, Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association, at a web panel Friday.

In October, Commerce prohibited the exportation to China of certain high-functioning chips necessary for supercomputers and moved to prevent other countries from providing China with certain semiconductors made with American technology.

The Commerce Department also limited American citizens’ ability to work with Chinese chip facilities. The restrictions were billed as a national security imperative and designed to limit the development next-generation, chip-dependent Chinese military technology.

However, the United States acted unilaterally, and her allies are not yet “on board,” Goodrich said.

Until allies opt into similar restrictions, the department’s new rules will “encourage the de-Americanization of [intellectual property] and supply chains,” Goodrich said. “If you’re a multinational company, you’re thinking about developing your intellectual property, where are you going to do it? Probably not the United States at this point.”

“You’re going to look to Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia, where you may not face that type of regulatory environment,” he added.

China is a huge market for the American chip industry and related businesses, and based on the new restrictions, some firms are predicting revenue declines of $1 billion to $2.5 billion, Goodrich said.

“[The challenge] is balancing a national security with the economic security piece,” stated Paul Triolo, senior vice president for China and technology policy lead at the Albright Stonebridge Group. “There hasn’t really been a significant discussion of how China fits into [global] supply chains and under what conditions.”

Commerce added the export restrictions just two months after President Joe Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, which allocated $52.7 billion for domestic semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development. Since CHIPS, Intel and others have announced or broken ground on several chip factories in the United States.

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