Leadership of a House subcommittee fretted Tuesday that the administration’s spectrum policy agenda has veered off-course.
“We need a comprehensive spectrum policy to meet future demand,” said House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Mike Doyle (D-PA), noting the challenge of “constrained spectrum resources. The federal government is the largest spectrum holder,” he said during a hearing, noting that federal agencies used to coordinate re-purposing federal spectrum for private commercial use.
“I’m very concerned there’s been a breakdown between NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration],” and other federal agencies, he said. Doyle specifically mentioned the fracas between the FCC, the Defense Department, the Commerce Department, and NOAA, which have expressed concerns over the FCC’s recent auction of some 24 GHz spectrum. NOAA said the change, “could have a serious impact on weather forecasting,” said Doyle. “I’m concerned when cabinet officials are publicly fighting with the FCC over spectrum.”
Full House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), referred to a “leadership vacuum,” saying, “I’m concerned the administration does not understand agencies need to coordinate.” This, in turn, affects a “mind-numbing list of spectrum-related” issues, he explained. Pallone added: “It’s clear Congress has to legislate to resolve these concerns.”
Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), chimed in, calling the, “conflict going on in the administration, a bit troubling. We had a good NTIA director in place,” said Walden, referring to David Redl, who recently left the post. Walden said he wanted to, “express concern about what is going now as well.”
Mindful of other countries’ NextGen wireless plans, Walden said: “It’s disconcerting if we undersell the importance of this. Our adversaries are very focused and they know what needs to happen. Moving forward with 5G deployment means we need to make some tough decisions.”
During the FCC’s vote on the 24 GHz spectrum, approving portions of the band that were recently auctioned for wireless use, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the fears from NOAA and NASA came at the last minute and they had had ample time before-hand to make their concerns known.
Rep. Billy Long (D-MO), asked if federal agencies had expressed such concerns before the Commission vote. FCC Office of Engineering and Technology Chief Julius Knapp said “no.”
NTIA Senior Policy Advisor Derek Khlopin disagreed, saying concerns were raised and reflected in Commission submissions. “This is a typical process,” said Khlopin, which “unfortunately got more press,” than normal.
Doyle asked about confusion over the level of interference protection necessary to protect incumbent defense users on the 24 GHz band. Knapp told lawmakers the agency adopted a protection standard and discussions continue with other federal agencies about the appropriate interference protection level. Though there’s no compromise yet, the parties hope to come to some sort of agreement in August, said Khlopin. “We’re optimistic we can get to a positive outcome,” added Knapp.
by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
July 18, 2019