FCC, NTIA support NSF spectrum research initiative

The past few years have seen government agencies fight over spectrum policies, but the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) both have agreed to support the Spectrum Innovation Initiative by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“This Memorandum of Agreement between the National Science Foundation, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission is one step toward revitalizing the interagency coordination process so that it once again is able to produce results for American consumers and the economy,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement on Monday. “Better coordination between these agencies ultimately means more spectrum and more innovation to help restore American wireless leadership and build the 5G future.”

NSF launched the initiative last year to explore innovative advancements in research and development on the biggest challenges facing the United States due to increased demand for access to spectrum.

The spectrum coordination agreement comes after several tussles over spectrum between the FCC and NTIA. One recent example is Ligado Networks, which won FCC approval for its L-Band service last April, but the NTIA petitioned for a stay on that order. The FCC denied the NTIA’s petition as one of former Chairman Ajit Pai’s last moves before his departure last month.

At the time of the FCC’s unanimous vote on Ligado, Rosenworcel and fellow Democrat on the commission, Geoffrey Starks, issued a joint statement where they said it was a close call, but they were siding with the FCC engineers’ technical analysis.

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They pointed to a letter by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and then-Congressman Greg Walden who called for a review of the NTIA’s federal spectrum management processes. Pallone and Walden referred to spectrum process breakdowns that included the debate leading up to the National Defense Authorization Act, the 2.5 GHz FCC docket and the 24 GHz FCC auction.

The FCC said the new Memorandum of Agreement between the agencies is intended to ensure that FCC and NTIA staff can provide their subject matter expertise to help ensure that NSF’s Spectrum Innovation Initiative investments in spectrum research, infrastructure and workforce development are in alignment with U.S. spectrum regulatory and policy objectives, principles and strategies.  

The first key goal will be establishing the nation’s first National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research.