FCC launches Spectrum Task Force to develop roadmap

The FCC last week announced the launch of a Spectrum Task Force to advance the commission’s spectrum agenda under the National Broadband Plan. This is the entity that broadcasters will deal with in upcoming battle over the reclaiming of spectrum and in the use of white space spectrum for portable Internet devices.

Julius Knapp, the FCC's chief of the Office of Engineering Technology, and Ruth Milkman, head of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, will co-chair the task force. It will also include the heads of the Enforcement, International, Media, and Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureaus, as well as the head of the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis.

“To lead the world in mobile, the FCC must ensure that our nation’s spectrum is being put to its highest and best use,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. “The FCC’s National Broadband Plan lays out a comprehensive roadmap for promoting greater spectrum efficiency and flexibility, and ensuring sufficient spectrum for broadband. The Spectrum Task Force will keep us on this charted course.”

The task force is charged with the critical role of executing the spectrum recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, including long-term spectrum planning. Its goal is to bring 500MHz of spectrum to market over the next 10 years.

It hopes to access 120MHz of underutilized spectrum from television broadcasters and has offered a voluntary plan to obtain it. However, the NAB, the broadcaster’s chief lobbyist, is already raising fear among the broadcasters that the plan is, in fact, not voluntary.

Knapp told GigaOm that the FCC doesn’t plan on dealing with formal rulemaking for reallocating broadcast spectrum until 2011, when it will open up the topic for comments in the third quarter.

Another issue of interest to broadcasters is the use of white spaces between TV broadcast spectrum. The FCC plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in the third quarter of this year on the topic that would enable equipment manufacturers and network operators to start delivering products and services that use the white spaces. Broadcasters have furiously opposed the use of whites spaces, claiming it would remove a needed buffer and allow interference with DTV broadcasts.

Toward the end of this year the FCC will come out with information on what band of spectrum it wants to use for delivering unlicensed services like WiFi. The agency is currently talking to equipment manufacturers and public interest groups to determine which blocks it might need.