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FCC budget FY1011

FY 2011 Budget & Spectrum

Today the President’s FY 2011 budget was unveiled throughout the government. So let’s look at how spectrum was affected.

In the FCC’s budget we set a modest increase of the total agency budget from $428M to $443M (Grand Total Proposed Budget Authority) and staff increase from 1,905 to 1,980.

Spectrum No Longer a Strategic Goal

While not explicitly stated, the FCC’s strategic goals have changed and this will affect the resources for spectrum activities. For several years up to and including the FY10 budget the strategic goals of FCC were: Broadband, Competition, Spectrum, Media, Public Safety, and Modernize. This year they are: Broadband, Consumers, Competition and Innovation, Continual Improvement, Public Safety and Homeland Security, and International. Guess what’s missing? This means that spectrum also does not have Performance Commitments and Metrics in the budget and is likely to get less management attention except in the international area where it is explicitly part of the International goal. No doubt the well connected satellite industry will get its attention and others may get crumbs. We will see.

There are two proposed legislative changes related to spectrum:

Spectrum Auction Authority
The Administration proposes to extend indefinitely the authority of the FCC to auction spectrum licenses, which will expire on September 30, 2012. The additional offsetting receipts associated with this permanent extension are estimated to total $1.6 billion through 2020.
This proposal supports the Administration's efforts to foster new wireless broadband technologies by making new spectrum available. Specifically, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Department of Commerce will collaborate with the FCC to develop a plan to make available significant spectrum suitable for both mobile and fixed wireless broadband use over the next ten years. The plan will focus on making spectrum available for exclusive use by commercial broadband providers or technologies, or for dynamic, shared access by commercial and government users, on either a licensed or unlicensed basis.

Spectrum Licensing User Fee
To promote efficient use of the electromagnetic spectrum, the Administration proposes to provide the FCC with new authority to use other economic mechanisms, such as fees, as a spectrum management tool. The Commission would be authorized to set user fees on unauctioned spectrum licenses based on spectrum-management principles. Fees would be phased in over time as part of an ongoing rulemaking process to determine the appropriate application and level for fees. Fee collections are estimated to begin in 2010, and total $4.8 billion through 2020.

The first one puts legislative pressure on NTIA to find more spectrum for the commercial community. One can hear the IRAC protests already. The second means that ALL spectrum users (presumably excepting only noncommerical uses such as public safety) may have to pay for spectrum access. At present chosen groups, like Part 74 licensees, get spectrum for free while others pay for it. Marcus’ First Law of Spectrum Economics: ‘If spectrum is free, then more spectrum is always cheaper than efficient technology”.

The staffing in OET was 84 in FY 09, is budgeted at 90 now, and is proposed to increase to 96 in FY 11. (By contrast when I was hired in 1979, I was #155. Some functions have moved from OET, but that does not account for all this drop.)

Spectrum inventory work is in the budget:

Spectrum Inventory and Broadband Mapping Data: $2,400,000
Spectrum Inventory: The spectrum inventory initiative is designed to enable user-friendly access to information regarding spectrum bands and licenses, including those that may be suitable for wireless broadband deployment. The FCC’s spectrum inventory activities will focus on providing general information about commercial and non-commercial use of spectrum bands, by users other than federal users, in the mobile range of 225 MHz to 3.7 GHz, as well as more detailed information about bands of particular relevance to broadband. The public will be able to easily browse spectrum bands, search for spectrum licenses, produce maps, and download raw data for further analysis. Through a single FCC portal, users will be able to access basic information on licenses (e.g., licensee name, contact information, frequency bands) as well as descriptions of frequency bands and allocations. Further, the spectrum inventory will include the capability to search for licenses based on commonly recognizable names of companies (e.g. AT&T, Verizon, etc.), and the amount of spectrum held by licensees on a county-by-county basis for many types of licenses. The initiative contemplates continuing improvement and augmentation of the spectrum inventory over time with inclusion of more comprehensive data. The spectrum inventory is intended to assist in ongoing spectrum policy planning and decision- making, promote a robust secondary market in spectrum, and improve communications services in all areas of the United States, including rural and underserved areas as well as tribal lands.

There is a new public safety initiative that is not entirely clear at this time:

Emergency Response Interoperability Center: $1,500,000
The long term mission of the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) will be to ensure the operability and interoperability of public safety wireless broadband communications capabilities. The funding provided will be to establish ERIC so that it is operational in advance of the deployment of the public safety broadband wireless capabilities. One function of ERIC will be to establish an advisory function for members of the public safety community and other federal government agencies, including [FCC], DHS and NTIA[, and will work in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Security and Communications Directorate]. The long term goal of ERIC is to establish a public safety broadband interoperability communications profile including interoperability standards, authentication, encryption, roaming, priority access, application uses and interconnectivity which will be used to set baseline requirements for public safety users. In addition, public safety broadband capabilities are deployed, ERIC will resolve interoperability-related disputes between public safety entities, work with third parties (e.g., federal government, state and localities, tribal nations) on broadband infrastructure sharing, and maintain relevant databases, among other things. This important initiative will help to remedy historic barriers to public safety communications interoperability, and is a key element of next-generation public safety communications capabilities.

On the NTIA part of the budget, spectrum management staffing stays fixed at 32, although there is a 3 person increase in research at ITS in Boulder CO. This is for a program called Spectrum Access with Intelligent Networks and Cognitive Radios which is described as

The goal of this research program is to examine spectrum sharing approaches and to identify the techniques that can provide the most efficient and effective sharing of the radio spectrum through the use of “Intelligent Radios.” This research will aid the NTIA, the FCC, the telecommunications industry, and other government agencies in the design of dynamic spectrum access schemes for cognitive radio under different communication requirements. The research will also produce interference protection criteria (IPC) for all types of Federal Government radio and radar systems and provide insights and solutions for technical issues associated with spectrum sharing. Under this initiative, NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) will identify, evaluate, and recommend solutions for the technical issues and challenges of spectrum sharing.

Over the next five years, ITS will produce a number of publications that will provide U.S. federal agencies and commercial service providers, with interference protection criteria and evaluations with respect to various cognitive radio approaches and technologies. Several U.S. federal agencies, along with commercial service providers, will benefit from this information. The FCC and NTIA, with responsibility for spectrum management, are very interested in what cognitive radio technology has to offer and how it would affect their current regulatory scheme. The military and the public safety and emergency response communities see the benefits that this new radio technology offers, with frequency agility and/or flexibility, the ability to enhance interoperability between different radio standards, and the capability to sense the presence of interferers. Other countries and international agencies such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) also are looking to adopt similar cognitive radio approaches to increase spectrum utilization.

The budget says this program will “ aid the NTIA, FCC, the telecommunications industry, and other government agencies in the design of dynamic spectrum access schemes for cognitive radio under different communication requirements.”

The effect of spectrum’s disappearance as a strategic goal could be important. I hope industry and the press insist on clarifications here.