Issue in Focus
Dec 07 2018
You can’t see them, but all of us are surrounded by traffic jams every day. Even if you never set foot in a car, these traffic problems are almost definitely affecting your daily life. And they are getting worse.
Do you have a mobile device like an iPhone? Do you use Wi-Fi in your home or at work? If so then you are part of the spectrum traffic jam.
Just like cars travel down a highway, information travels on wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. If there is too much information traveling on one particular wavelength then that information can’t travel as fast or as accurately as possible.
We do have traffic laws to govern these invisible traffic flows, but with the evergoing demand for wireless communication, our existing roads are clogging up. And if we want to be at the forefront of 5G wireless technology we are going to need all the spectrum we can find.
In addition to the spectrum we all use for radio, television, and our mobile devices, the federal government also has set aside parts of the spectrum to key agencies like the Department of Defense and Interior Department.
Of the spectrum dedicated to these federal agencies, most of it would be considered four lane express highways; obviously we’d like to reserve the best communications infrastructure for the defense of our country and its citizens. However, we’re not entirely sure how much of that spectrum is actually being used by all of these agencies.
While the unused spectrum bands were less of an issue at the beginning of the 1900s when there were fewer entitles – like tech companies – competing for them, that is no longer the case. With more and more people going wireless and demanding faster speeds, more spectrum is needed. This is why Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and I introduced the Government Spectrum Valuation Act. The bill requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the FCC to determine the value of electromagnetic spectrum assigned or allocated to each federal agency and make that analysis available publicly annually.
Once we know how much spectrum each agency has, and how much the spectrum is worth, we can better decide if agencies have the spectrum they need and if they have any unneeded spectrum that can be sold to the public.
If the United States is going to maintain its status as a global technology leader we need to make sure we are allocating our finite spectrum resources efficiently. And this bill will help us reach that goal.