Comments to NTIA on the National Spectrum Strategy

National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Agency: Department of Commerce

Comment Period Opens March 16, 2023

Comment Period Closes: April 17, 2023

Comment Submitted: April 17, 2023

Docket No. 230308–0068

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) requests comments regarding its Development of a National Spectrum Strategy proceeding, and I welcome the opportunity to submit a comment in response.

I am a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. As part of its mission, Mercatus Center scholars conduct independent legal and economic analyses to assess agency rulemakings and proposals from the perspective of consumers and the public.

Attached is my law review article about spectrum policy, which is responsive to several NTIA queries.

NTIA Query 1. Have previous efforts to facilitate sharing, whether statically or dynamically, proven successful in promoting more intensive spectrum use while protecting incumbents? Static sharing works fairly well compared to dynamic sharing.

My article notes:

After 25 years of forecasts that dynamic sharing is right around the corner, dynamic sharing is still largely in the research and development stage. . . . In contrast, clearing incumbents with overlays in similar swaths of spectrum leads to investment and consumer welfare gains orders of magnitude larger, sometimes within months of auction.

NTIA Query 2. Are there market-based, system-performance based or other approaches that would make it easier for federal agencies to share or make spectrum available while maintaining federal missions?

The NTIA and FCC should consider prioritizing the clearing of legacy users and auctioning overlay licenses, which grant auction winners:

  1. primary rights to any unused spectrum in the band,
  2. secondary rights to spectrum in the band that is being used by an incumbent, and
  3. exclusive rights to bargain with existing users occupying portions of the band.

Versions of this overlay license method have been articulated by, among others, now-FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel. It has been described as a “promising mechanism” by the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee’s Spectrum Efficiency Subcommittee.

NTIA Query 3. NTIA is pursuing a time-based spectrum sharing solution called the incumbent informing capability (IIC) to support spectrum sharing between federal and non-federal users. What are some recommendations for developing an enduring, scalable mechanism for managing shared spectrum access using the IIC or other similar mechanism, with the goal of increasing the efficiency of spectrum use?

Intra-organization “time-based spectrum sharing” is routinely accomplished via orthogonal frequency division multiplexing and other technologies. However, forcing agencies and operators into, in contrast, inter-organization time-based sharing techniques will likely face significant resistance and problems due to differing technologies, use cases, and valuations of the underlying spectrum. A better approach to increase efficiency is to allow payment and spectrum trades between organizations (like agencies and commercial operators). However, in my article, I point out that, under current law, federal agencies generally cannot sell or transfer their spectrum to commercial users, thus locking spectrum resources into inefficient federal systems and creating a starvation mindset among all spectrum users. NTIA should examine changes needed in federal law to allow federal agencies to gain a substantial cut of auction proceeds when “their” spectrum is auctioned for commercial uses.

This, and the other responsive analysis can be found in the article attached below. Thank you for the opportunity to comment in this proceeding.

Citations and endnotes are not included in the web version of this product. For complete citations and endnotes, please refer to the downloadable PDF at the top of the webpage.