Companion Bill to Senate Radio Spectrum Inventory Act Introduced in House
In March, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act (S 649) in the Senate. Earlier this month, that bill passed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Last week, Representative Henry Waxman (CA-30) introduced a companion bill -- HR 3125 -- in the House of Representatives; the bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The bills, if passed, would mandate an inventory of radio spectrum bands managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission. The Senate version calls for an inventory of frequencies between 300 MHz-3.5 GHz managed by the two agencies, while the House bill would mandate an inventory of 225 MHz-10 GHz.
Senate Bill 649 states that the NTIA and the FCC would be required to inventory the spectrum no later than 180 days after the bill becomes law; after the initial survey, follow-ups would be required every two years. Both agencies would need to prepare a report listing the licenses or government user assigned in the band, the total spectrum allocation, by band, of each licensee or government user (in percentage terms and in sum) and the number of intentional radiators and end-user intentional radiators that have been deployed in the band with each license or government user.
Additionally, if the information is applicable, the report would be required to show the type of intentional radiators operating in the band, the type of unlicensed intentional radiators authorized to operate in the band, contour maps that illustrate signal coverage and strength and the approximate geo-location of base stations or fixed transmitters. The report would then be sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The bill also mandates that both agencies create a centralized portal or Web site that lists each agency's band inventories. This information would then be made available to the public via an Internet-accessible Web site. Both agencies would also be required to make all necessary efforts to maintain and update the inventory information "in near real-time fashion and whenever there is a transfer or auction of licenses or change in allocation or assignment."
"Our public airwaves belong to the American people, and we need to make certain we are putting them to good use in the best interests of those citizens," Senator Kerry said when he introduced the bill in March. "Last year's 700 MHz auction resulted in $20 billion for the treasury and will create greater opportunity and choice for consumers and businesses that need broadband service. We also took a great step forward when the FCC established a way for unlicensed devices to operate in white spaces. These two initiatives are evidence of how valuable spectrum is and how it serves as fertile grounds for innovation. We need to make sure we're making as much of it available to innovators and consumers as possible."
Like S 649, HR 3125 calls for the NTIA and the FCC to issue a report on the inventory of spectrum no later than 180 days after the bill becomes law; after the initial survey, follow-ups would be required every two years. The House bill goes a bit further than S 634, however, calling for the two agencies to work with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); this office advises the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs.
The agency reports called for in HR 3125 would include the same information called for in the Senate version. Like the Senate bill, the House bill calls for the reports to be made available on the Internet and update the reports as needed. Both bills include an exemption for licensees or users if they can demonstrate that disclosure would be harmful to national security.
"The [bill] represents a significant step in making available more spectrum for commercial and wireless services. The more efficient use of our nation's airwaves will increase innovation for wireless products and services and improve the connectivity of the American people," said bill co-sponsor Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA-9). "As more people use wireless devices and as advanced applications require higher data rates over time, additional spectrum will be needed to accommodate growth. Wireless technologies can also play a critical role in bringing broadband to more consumers, particularly in rural areas."
S 649 is co-sponsored by Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
HR 3125 already has 17 co-sponsors: Joe Barton (R-TX-6), Rick Boucher (D-VA-9), Steve Buyer (R-IN-4), Kathy Castor (D-FL-11), John Dingell (D-MI-15), Michael Doyle (D-PA-14), Anna Eshoo (D-CA-14), Bart Gordon (D-TN-6), Jay Inslee (D-WA-1), Edward Markey (D-MA-7), Doris Matsui (D-CA-5), Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11), Zachary Space (D-OH 18), Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6), Bart Stupak (D-MI-1), Fred Upton (R-MI-6) and Peter Welch (D-VT). Gordon and Welch are also co-sponsors of HR 2160, The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009.