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Legislation Introduced in US Senate to Inventory Radio Spectrum

03/25/2009

Two US Senators -- Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine -- have introduced a bill in the Senate that would mandate an inventory of radio spectrum bands managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission. The inventory would include those frequencies between 300 MHz-3.5 GHz managed by the two agencies.

The proposed legislation, known as the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act, states that the NTIA and the FCC would be required to inventory of 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's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and to the House of Representatives 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." The bill includes an exemption for licensees or users if they can demonstrate that disclosure would be harmful to national security.

"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. "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."

"Used by millions of consumers and countless businesses on a daily basis, wireless technology is a proud part of America's innovative history and a key to its economic future," Senator Snowe said. "But as radio spectrum is already a scarce yet valuable resource in many areas, we must ensure that this public good is allocated and used efficiently for the needs of the American people. This legislation is the first step to addressing comprehensive spectrum reform and will work to enhance advanced communications services to keep people on-line and in touch."

ARRL Technical Relations Manager Brennan Price, N4QX, said that the bill is in its infancy and that there is no corresponding legislation in the House of Representatives: "The text of the proposed legislation neither exempts Amateur Radio nor considers the frequency-agile and unfixed nature of most Amateur Radio operations. This bill merits watching and presents amateurs an opportunity to educate their Senators about the nature of our stations and our Service."

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, and Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican.



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