Feds Consider Leasing Their Spectrum for Commercial Use

Smart Cities, IoT, drones and space exploration will all rely on spectrum and the White House believes crafting a national spectrum strategy is important. That’s according to Kelsey Guyselman, policy advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She took part in a spectrum policy panel discussion Tuesday organized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Reallocating spectrum for the nation’s future needs “is not a zero-sum game,” said Guyselman. “I don’t want [it] to be seen as taking [spectrum] from one group to give to another.”

The White House, along with NTIA, the FCC, FAA, Department of Defense, the telecom and satellite industries and others are discussing developing a spectrum strategy for federal and non-federal users. “We can work together to maximize efficiencies,” said Guyselman.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is focused on 5G and infrastructure, according to his wireless and international legal advisor Rachel Bender. Having a national spectrum strategy can help the agency focus, she said. Flexibility is key from the agency’s perspective. “It should be a living document as technology evolves, so we can keep pushing forward and adapt.”

The concept of leasing federal spectrum for commercial use was discussed. The federal budget for 2019 discusses the concept as a possibility to free up more spectrum for wireless use. NTIA Associate Administrator and head of the Office of Spectrum Management, Paige Atkins characterizes it as a “high-level concept. We need to try to figure out how to make it work.” Unclear is how industry would qualify for a spectrum lease, the length of the agreement and who would get the money.

FAA Acting Deputy Administrator Carl Burleson said it’s critical to get buy-in from stakeholders on what to focus on and how to achieve goals, though he admitted the process “is a little messy.” Agreeing, Col. Frederick Williams, senior analyst, Spectrum Policy & International Engagements for the Department of Defense, said: “We’ve got to get past thinking about [spectrum] in terms of primacy and exclusivity.”

Atkins summed up the meeting as “the beginning on an ongoing dialogue.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief  

June 14, 2018        

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