The House sub-committee on communications and technology met today to discuss the relocation of federal spectrum and the challenges to spectrum sharing. My takeaway from the discussion was a low expectation that federal agencies will be able to get it together on finding ways to relocate and money to upgrade their facilities should they have to inhabit new real estate along the spectrum beach head.
Honestly, the representative from the Department of Defense, Teri Takai, made a good argument about concerns DOD had about interference with its air combat preparedness. Being a member of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary myself, her argument honestly hit a cord with me. I’d rather the military keep their spectrum or at least be given a sufficient amount of time to carefully assess what frequencies they can live without.
I didn’t hear any of the congressmen suggest (threaten) any new legislation that would (in your dreams) expedite the vacate of spectrum bands by the federal government. Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, minced no words when she expressed her displeasure at how long it was taken federal agencies to come up with a plan to relocate their frequencies. She’s expended a little political capital on the issue based on recent comments she made in support of President Obama’s creation of a spectrum task force team:
“I welcome the administration’s creation of a spectrum policy team, operating as a joint venture between federal agencies uniquely positioned to maximize the efficiency and value of our nation’s airwaves. Relinquishing or sharing underutilized spectrum can yield more efficient use of this limited resource and help to propel our communications economy even further into the digital age.”
The sub-committee is exhibiting bi-partisan energy on the matter. You really can’t get to partisan about spectrum.
The sub-committee chairman, Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, seemed pretty upbeat about today’s meeting as well:
“I’m convinced we can upgrade federal systems while freeing spectrum, thereby promoting both our nation’s safety and economic well-being. Last year, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, including the commercial incentive auction provisions that were the fruits of this subcommittee’s labor. Such auctions can help make spectrum available to meet the growing demand from mobile broadband services, provided the FCC gets the auction and band plans right,” said Chairman Walden. “Building on the knowledge gained by the working group, today we look at the tools available to maintain and even improve federal agencies capabilities while freeing spectrum for commercial use.”
Congress is limited by how much fire it can put under the butts of federal agencies. Leadership will have to come from the executive branch and I don’t see President Obama being able to push the military any harder. It’s not worth his political capital.