NTIA Adopts Rules for Spectrum-Sharing Process

WASHINGTON – Rules have been adopted for governing the technical panel and the dispute resolution process related to spectrum sharing between federal agencies and commercial users. The Spectrum Act requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to facilitate spectrum-sharing in a number of ways, including the establishment of a technical panel charged with reviewing the process, and the workings of a dispute resolution board. The agency received only six comments on its proposed rules for both.

The job of the technical panel will be to “review the sufficiency” of spectrum band transition plans, the NTIA order states. The government is seeking to free up spectrum across various radio frequency bands to create a national wireless broadband network. Broadcasters as well as federal agencies will be subject to relocation in the process. Statute dictates that federal agencies follow a “common format,” approved by the panel.

The panel is comprised of three members—one each appointed by Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Each member must be a “radio engineer or technical expert,” each to serve only one term of 18 months, unpaid. They must review submitted transition plans within 30 days of submission.

The new NTIA rules allow the further discretion of appointing individuals from both federal agencies and the private sector, and requiring a security clearance for review of classified materials.

The same federal executives charged with appointing the technical panel must also choose the individuals for the dispute-resolution board. Each is to select three to be available at any time. They cannot also be members of the technical panel, and they must be employees of the appointing agency. The board’s job is to resolve any relocation conflicts that can’t be settled by the disputing parties.

Federal entities must identify an officer or employee authorized to negotiate with non-federal users—such as broadcasters or winning bidders in the incentive auctions—regarding the transition. Parties are urged to first try mediation or non-binding arbitration before submitting a written request for resolution by the federally appointed board. Their decision is due in 30 days with the possibility of extension. The board’s decision is final upon issuance.

SeeRelocation of, and Spectrum Sharing by, Federal Government Stations—Technical Panel and Dispute Resolution Board.”