• Senate Committee Moves Spectrum Inventory Bill, House Introduces Own Version
  • July 21, 2009 | Authors: Jennifer L. Richter; Jennifer A. Cetta; Carly T. Didden; Nancy A. Murray
  • Law Firm: Patton Boggs LLP - Washington Office
  • The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on July 8th unanimously approved a bill requiring the inventory of radio spectrum, a measure intended to free up frequencies for broadband wireless communication. The bill, S. 649, was introduced by Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee chairman John Kerry, D-MA, with bi-partisan cosponsors. The bill would require the FCC and NTIA to initiate within 180 days of enactment a comprehensive survey of the utilization of the radio spectrum, including television and radio bands from 300 MHz to 3.5 GHz and submit the results to the committee. NTIA and the FCC would also be required to create an online, "near real-time" database so the public could monitor any auction, transfer or change in allocation or assignment of frequencies.

    A House version of the bill introduced July 8th by Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-CA, and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-VA. would require the FCC to identify the least-utilized blocks of spectrum in every market in the country, and then recommend which, if any, should be reallocated. It would also require annual reports to that effect, though it would also place responsibility on the FCC and NTIA rather than the spectrum users to gather the information where possible.

    Unlike the Senate bill, the House measure seeks more detailed information on who is using the spectrum, which includes radio and television broadcasters, and how efficiently they are doing it. Wireless and computer companies have long argued that there is space between broadcast channels for a lot more users, while broadcasters are concerned about the interference that could result. The FCC last year agreed to allow unlicensed wireless devices to share the broadcast band.