NTIA, FCC join forces on spectrum management

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on Tuesday announced a new initiative to improve U.S. government coordination on spectrum management.

The timing is no coincidence. A lack of communications between federal agencies, including these two, has been in the news a lot lately, spurred most recently by the very public dispute between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the FCC.

Other examples include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) blaming the 24 GHz 5G allocation for potentially messing up weather forecasts and the Department of Defense (DoD) and GPS users upset about Ligado Networks’ L-band rollout.

“Now more than ever we need a whole-of-government approach to spectrum policy,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “Over the past few years we’ve seen the cost of not having one — and we need a non-stop effort to fix that. I appreciate Assistant Secretary Davidson’s leadership and his willingness to work with me to revitalize the interagency coordination process so that it once again is able to produce results for consumers and the economy.”

Alan Davidson, who took the helm at NTIA in mid-January, said the FCC and NTIA have an opportunity to build a common vision for spectrum management and coordination that serves federal users, private actors and the American people. “I am excited to launch this initiative with Chairwoman Rosenworcel. I value her leadership on spectrum policy and her collaboration as we work to accomplish our shared goals,” he stated.

The FCC and NTIA said they want to use this new initiative to improve the two agencies’ ability to address “gaps in government coordination.”

Specifically, the FCC chair and NTIA assistant secretary will hold formal, regular meetings, beginning monthly, to work on joint spectrum planning. This will go “above and beyond” their current statutory requirement, as well as an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies, which provides they meet twice each calendar year.

From the looks of it, the new initiative has been in the works for a while. Here are some of their other commitments:

  • Reaffirm roles and responsibilities. Building on NTIA’s role as manager of the federal government’s use of spectrum, the FCC and NTIA will update the nearly 20-year-old Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies to address gaps in government coordination.
  • Renew efforts to develop a national spectrum strategy. Along these lines, the FCC and NTIA will collaborate to help inform the development of a national spectrum strategy, increase transparency and establish long-term spectrum planning and coordination. 
  • Recommit to scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking. The FCC and NTIA pledge to work cooperatively to develop processes for spectrum engineering compatibility analysis. These include a compilation of principles, guidelines, accepted technical standards, interference protection criteria, propagation models and other characteristics. 
  • Revamp technical collaboration. The FCC and NTIA promise to foster proactive technical exchange and engagement with industry and other federal agencies by participating in cross-agency advisory groups. For starters, the FCC will participate as an observer in the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee, and NTIA will participate as an observer in the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council and the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council.