Chorus grows for inventory of nation's airwaves

Experts from government, public interest groups and the private sector debated spectrum policy and voiced support for a bill to create a national spectrum inventory. The discussion was part of a larger conference, the State of the Mobile Net, which was hosted by the Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus in Washington, D.C., yesterday afternoon.

Matthew Hussey, an aide to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Me.), advocated a plan for a national spectrum inventory that would map out how much spectrum is actually being used. Snowe proposed this plan in late March, and the legislation is co-sponsored by former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). The bill calls for FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to provide data on the licensees or government users operating in different spectrum bands between the 300 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands, as well as the total spectrum allocation to each licensee or government user.

"Spectrum is a public good, and so there has to be greater accountability to the public," Hussey said. He said the government should provide clear information regarding the use of the nation's airwaves.

Michael Calabrese, vice president of the New America Foundation, also said there needed to be more transparency with respect to how spectrum is being used, and said the spectrum mapping proposal "would be a big step forward."

The panel also touched on other spectrum-related issues. Tom Sugrue, T-Mobile USA's vice president of government affairs, said the current proposal for a D-Block re-auction would not work. He said the 10 MHz of the 700 MHz block set aside for a public-private partnership should instead be used for commercial purposes, and that the proceeds made from an auction could be forwarded to public safety agencies, which could then use the money to develop technology and their own buildout efforts.

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Article updated April 27 to correct inaccurate information.