Deborah D. McAdams /
GOP Calls for Spectrum Inventory
Democrats mention freeing up more airwaves
WASHINGTON: The Republican platform this year calls for an inventory of
the airwaves, while the Democrats merely mention finding more “wireless
“We call for an inventory of federal agency spectrum to determine the surplus
that could be auctioned for the taxpayers’ benefit,” the GOP platform states
after criticizing the Obama Administration for not yet having auctioned
spectrum and for its net neutrality rule—“trying to micromanage telecom as if
it were a railroad network.”
The DNC platform says nothing about a spectrum inventory, but rather reiterates
the president’s goal to secure more spectrum for wireless
“President Obama has committed to ensuring that 98 percent of the country has
access to high-speed wireless broadband Internet access,” the document states.
“We are finding innovative ways to free up wireless spectrum and are building a
state-of-the-art nationwide, interoperable, public safety network.”
A spectrum inventory is of particular interest to broadcasters, who stand to
lose 40 percent of the spectrum they now occupy under the Obama
Administration’s National Broadband Plan. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle
have introduced spectrum inventory legislation since March of 2009—a full year
before the NBP was delivered to Congress by Federal Communications Commission
Chairman Julius Genachowski.
The NBP recommended reallocating 40 percent of the TV broadcast spectrum for
wireless broadband without first taking a full accounting of all licensees.
Under pressure from lawmakers to produce an updated inventory, Genachowski told
Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) in July of 2010 that
one was underway.
“I agree that developing a complete survey of the nation’s existing spectrum
allocation, assignment and utilization is imperative and commission staff have
begun work to create such an inventory,” Genachowski wrote to the lawmakers at
However, no such inventory has been produced, nor has the FCC produced the Allotment
Optimization Model it used to determine that 40 percent of the broadcast
spectrum could be reallocated without knocking out TV stations or reducing
coverage. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) has repeatedly pressed for the FCC’s AOM
to no avail, telling Genachowski at a hearing in July that withholding it could
get the FCC sued.
Congress granted the FCC the authority to auction off TV airwaves earlier this
year to facilitate the reallocation, intensifying the call for an inventory. Maine's
Republican Senator, Olympia Snowe, co-sponsored the most recent inventory
legislation with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) The bill would provide an inventory
how each spectrum band is being used, and by whom, and create a website where
the public could access the information. The bill has not advanced. Snowe, one
of the more vocal proponents of a spectrum inventory, will retire from the
Senate when her term ends Jan. 3, 2013.
~ Deborah D. McAdams