NAB chief asks spectrum working group to conduct spectrum inventory

The NAB last week urged the co-chairs of the Federal Spectrum Working Group to focus on spectrum usage and expressed the desire to see Congress require an inventory of spectrum as a first step in dealing with what has been called a "spectrum crisis."

In a letter sent May 8 to Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith said the "lack of objective information" regarding spectrum will impede the working group's understanding of how the private sector is using spectrum.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee in April launched the Federal Spectrum Working Group to examine how U.S. airwaves can be used more efficiently. Guthrie and Matsui have been appointed co-chairs of the bipartisan group.

In the letter, Smith referenced an article in "The New York Times" quoting Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cellular phone, as saying spectrum crisis "is an exaggeration."

"Mr. Cooper is not alone in his skepticism; Citigroup, the world's largest financial services network, proclaimed late last year that assertions of a spectrum crisis are overblown," the letter said.

The letter also raised media reports of spectrum warehousing and spectrum speculation by corporations which amount to "squatting" and keep valuable spectrum out of public use.

Smith reminded the co-chairs that requests from said in the letter that requests from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) for the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a spectrum inventory "have gone unanswered." Without such an inventory, the letter said, lawmakers and the public will not "have a clear understanding of what spectrum is being used by whom and for what purpose," the letter said.

"As government moves forward with broadcast incentive auctions, NAB respectfully requests that Congress be vigilant in safeguarding the rights of our local TV viewers during the process and further suggests that all spectrum license holders be held accountable for their use of valuable airwaves," the letter said. "If this country is truly facing what many are calling a spectrum 'crisis,' then Congress should require a comprehensive inventory that details who is using spectrum today."