White House Urges Federal Agencies To Take Advantage Of Spectrum

While the issue of divvying up spectrum isn't exactly fun to talk about around the water-cooler, it's an important one inside of the telecommunications industry. And, of course, that extends back to Washington. President Obama today issued a Presidential Memorandum that urges federal agencies to make better use of available spectrum. Obama's administration has stated on numerous occasions that it's a big fan of rural broadband, and it wants to get wireless Internet access to as many Americans as possible, and fast. The memorandum establishes a set of measures that Federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will now take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications.

Here's a bit from The White House Blog: "Many of the new measures are common-sense ways to improve spectrum efficiency.  Under the memorandum, an agency that requests a new spectrum assignment or that seeks to procure a spectrum-dependent system will have to document its consideration of alternative approaches and verify that it is pursuing the most spectrum-efficient method, in consideration of all relevant factors including cost and agency mission.

Other aspects of the memorandum build on existing strategies, particularly with respect to advancing collaboration with the private sector and other stakeholders.   Since 2010 the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which manages Federal agency spectrum assignments, has been implementing the President’s directive to identify 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband by convening agency-industry working groups that are engaged in unprecedented discussions  aimed at increasing spectrum efficiency and providing access to certain federally assigned spectrum bands for consumer wireless broadband.  Today’s memorandum directs NTIA to expand that collaborative process to encompass additional bands. Towards this end, NTIA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop policies and best practices to promote and facilitate greater collaboration among agencies, the private sector, and academia with respect to research, development, testing, and evaluation of spectrum-sharing technologies. Helping accelerate the pace of technological change, the White House announced $100 million in upcoming and proposed Federal investments in public-private research and development of spectrum sharing and other advanced communications technologies."

The memorandum also encourages the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in its role as steward of non-Federal spectrum, to continue its efforts to promote efficient, innovative, and flexible use of spectrum, including by imposing network build-out requirements or other conditions to guard against wasteful spectrum warehousing.  In addition, the memorandum strongly encourages the FCC to take steps to encourage improved performance of radio receivers, a largely-untapped avenue for increasing spectrum efficiency.

It's tough to tell when (or if) we'll see any of these changes enacted, but this is great to see it become such a priority.