Republican Staffers: Clearing Spectrum, Not Sharing, Is Priority

In Hearing Memo, GOPers Argue Sharing Plans are Speculative, Should be Last Resort
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Staffers for the Republican majority on the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee's Communications subcommittee have signaled to the Obama administration that it should focus on clearing spectrum from government users rather than encouraging them to share spectrum with commercial users.

That came in a memo to members from majority committee staffers Tuesday (Sept. 11) in advance of a Sept. 12 hearing in that subcommittee on freeing up government spectrum.

A recent National Telecommunications & Information Administration report on freeing up that spectrum suggested sharing should be an important part of that plan, a point echoed by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The Republican staffers say, instead, that that option should only be reserved for instances where clearing spectrum is "impossible."

NTIA has said that clearing spectrum could cost $18 billion and take ten years, which was one of the reasons it suggested sharing should be part of the equation as a way to free it up more quickly and at less expense.

But the staff memo says NTIA has conceded that estimate was not based on independent analysis, and may be inflated and inaccurate. "While the subcommittee welcomes the PCAST report to the extent that it explores additional options, sharing spectrum in the way it envisions is less useful than clearing spectrum and too untested to be the focus of the subcommittee's spectrum strategy. Such sharing should be reserved for cases in which Federal clearing is impossible."

The staffers are not saying sharing should not be explored, but do say the sharing push is speculative and more emphasis should be placed on clearing spectrum, which gives users the certainty of exclusive use and thus the incentive to pay more for the spectrum and invest in the infrastructure to employ it.