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Senate bill takes ‘first step’ toward comprehensive spectrum reform

New legislation requiring an inventory of all available radio spectrum managed by the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration was introduced last week in the Senate.

Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet; and Olympia Snowe, R-ME, a senior member of the Commerce Committee; introduced the measure. It was co-sponsored by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The bill would require the FCC and the NTIA to complete a detailed inventory within 180 days of its passage. It is “the first step to addressing comprehensive spectrum reform and will work to enhance advanced communications services to keep people online and in touch,” Snowe said.

In announcing the legislation, Kerry said the inventory would help ensure the public airwaves are being put to good use. He pointed to the proceeds of the 700MHz spectrum auction that brought $20 billion to the U.S. Treasury and last year’s FCC authorization of unlicensed devices to operate in TV spectrum as examples of how valuable RF spectrum is and “how it serves as fertile grounds for innovation.”

The Radio Spectrum Inventory Act directs NTIA and the FCC to report on the use of all spectrum bands between 30MHz and 3.5GHz. It requires the agencies to provide:

  • information on the licenses or government user operating in each band
  • the total spectrum allocation of each licensee or government user
  • the number and types of radiators that have been deployed in each band
  • contour maps illustrating signal coverage and strength

The legislation exempts licensees or users that can show disclosure would harm national security.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.