FCC, NTIA Commit to Teaming Up on Spectrum Strategy and Coordination

Announcement comes after a Republican lawmaker urging agencies to reaffirm partnership on spectrum policy and coordination.

FCC, NTIA Commit to Teaming Up on Spectrum Strategy and Coordination
Photo of Alan Davidson, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Tuesday that they are teaming up to coordinate on spectrum policy uses for federal and private users.

The Spectrum Coordination Initiative, as it’s called, is intended to make more robust an existing cooperative framework between the two agencies that manage federal spectrum resources. It includes adding formal and regular monthly meetings on spectrum planning, collaborating on a national spectrum strategy, committing to evidence-based policymaking, engaging with industry on technical information exchange and engagement, and updating a decades-old memorandum of understanding between both agencies.

“The FCC and NTIA have an opportunity today to build a common vision for spectrum management and coordination that serves federal users, private actors, and the American people,” said Alan Davidson, head of the NTIA, in a Tuesday press release.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel added in the release that, “Now more than ever we need a whole-of-government approach to spectrum policy. Over the past few years we’ve seen the cost of not having one—and we need a non-stop effort to fix that.”

The announcement comes after Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, sent a letter on January 13 to Rosenworcel and Davidson urging them to firm up their relationship on matters related to the shared use of radiowaves between federal and non-federal users by updated a memorandum of understanding last updated in 2003, citing disputes over spectrum allocation.

The move is the latest by the freshly installed head of the NTIA, who was confirmed by the Senate as head of the Commerce agency in January, and it comes on the heels of a conflict between the Federal Aviation Administration and the telecommunications industry.

Earlier this year, AT&T and Verizon were forced to postpone turning on 5G services around airports because the FAA was concerned that radiofrequencies used by those services in the C-band spectrum would interfere with nearby wavelengths in altimeters used by planes to land safely.

During a hearing in front of the House transportation committee earlier this month, FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson attribution the situation to a lack of “early, open data exchange” of information about possible interference scenarios, while the president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association said conversation needed to begin earlier to avoid the conflict.

Some observers at the Consumer Electronics Show at the start of the year noted the lack of federal coordination as the problem in the aviation deadlock, with one noting that Alan Davidson’s confirmation by the Senate to lead the NTIA – which came later – would help resolve the coordination issues.

In September, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California, introduced the Spectrum Innovation Act, which would make available additional slices of the 3.1 to 3.45 Gigahertz spectrum for non-federal, shared federal and non-federal use.

The Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November, includes provisions that give federal officials the ability to seek out spectrum frequencies for federal use.

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