On September 13, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing on federal spectrum use and the feasibility of sharing spectrum between federal users and commercial wireless providers. The hearing was called in response to the release of two government reports earlier this year that emphasized sharing spectrum between Federal and commercial users rather than finding spectrum that can be cleared and auctioned off to commercial providers. According to the hearing briefing, “sharing spectrum in the way [the President’s Council of Advisors of Science and Technology report] envisions is less useful than clearing spectrum and too untested to be the focus of the subcommittee’s spectrum strategy.”
The hearing specifically focused on the federal government as the single largest user of spectrum, stating that “using spectrum more efficiently and with modernized equipment could help Federal agencies better fulfill their objectives while freeing spectrum for broadband services.” According to the hearing briefing, the President’s Council of Advisors of Science and Technology report “largely based its push for sharing of spectrum over clearing based on the assumption that it will be too costly to clear additional spectrum of Federal users.” However, Republican committee members argued that there are limitations and uncertainty to spectrum sharing and insisted that focus stay on relocations and clearing as much as possible.
“Spectrum-sharing may hold potential in the future for some spectrum bands where clearing is impossible or we have certainty that the cost of relocation exceeds the value of the spectrum,” stated Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). “I am not ready to accept the opinion that ‘the norm for spectrum use should be sharing’ today. That’s simply not good enough.”
Witnesses on the panel included: