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Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker Speaks on  Spectrum Policy Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker Speaks on  Spectrum Policy Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker Speaks on Spectrum Policy

On December 3, Comm. Baker gave a speech entitled "A Spectrum Management Framework" to  The Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal &  Economic Public Policy Studies 2009 Annual U.S. Telecoms Symposium.  As far as I am aware, this was the first speech this year by a commissioner to basic spectrum policy issues.  Comm. Baker is particularly well qualified in this area as a past head of NTIA.

Her key points were :
"1.    An up-to-date, strategic spectrum management framework that includes achievable and clear short and longer term goals. A transparent plan will provide a predictable flow of spectrum resources to broadband providers to allow for planning by both existing providers and new entrants, as well as more flexible use of existing allocations.
2.    Economic and regulatory policies to facilitate investment in mobile broadband networks—including deploying 4G networks and enhancing 3G infrastructures. These policies need to support the continued success of the competitive wireless market, but not to the exclusion of entrepreneurs and new entrants. We also need to align the incentives to deploy wireless services to unserved and underserved areas.
3.    A policy plan to actively promote innovation, including cutting edge research and development in areas that will help increase the efficiency of spectrum use. Mobile broadband would not exist today without basic research conducted years ago and relentless applied research and development. We cannot expect to benefit from the types of advances that took us from brick phones to smartphones without a comprehensive commitment to world-class research and development in the area of mobile technologies—here in the United States. This could include enhanced collaboration with
technical advisors and other spectrum experts and the adoption of policies that foster further innovation."
Let me focus on the 3rd point, "A policy plan to actively promote innovation, including cutting edge research and development in areas that will help increase the efficiency of spectrum use." The free enterprise system has done amazingly well in this country in bringing us the benefits of the information society.  Wireless innovation lags innovation in other areas because of government regulation of spectrum which is needed in some degree because of the limited nature of the spectrum resource and the potential for interference.  (My Mac doesn't interfere with your PC so there is no need for government to get involved in computer technology regulation.  Nor is there a finite amount of semiconductors available for computers.)

The key policy challenge for FCC
and NTIA is how to craft spectrum policy to encourage private capital formation for R&D.  (Since many new innovations raise questions of interference to federal users and NTIA has effective veto power over FCC actions in such areas, NTIA is also a key player here.) Such policy should deal fairly with both existing manufacturers and operators and entrepreneurial ones. (Remember not that long ago both Microsoft and Qualcomm were startups!)  The current spectrum policy deliberations are so drawn out and complex that capital formation is certainly inhibited.  Whether you agree with M2Z's business  model or not, should it really take 3+ years to resolve whether TDD can be used in AWS-3?

She fully supports the
spectrum inventory concept
"One critical tool government and industry needs is a spectrum inventory to better understand how spectrum is being used today across all bands. Such an inventory should be dynamic and focused on data that will inform and facilitate additional spectrum use. The output should be a user-friendly resource for all interested parties and should be able to be incorporated into more sophisticated spectrum management tools. Such an inventory will be critical to government efforts to manage spectrum more effectively as well as spectrum users trying to find fallow spectrum that can be transformed into greater connectivity and new services."
I support it also.  But I recognize that without some progress on clarifying "harmful interference" and speeding adjudications of "harmful interference" the spectrum inventory will be a waste of time and resources.  Why?  Going back to the AWS-3 case, everyone agrees that 2155-2175 is empty of other primary users.  But there is huge disagreement on what use of this band is acceptable without causing "harmful interference" to the lower adjacent incumbents.  This is a pattern repeated many times for innovative technologies.  We need a system that deals with these issues in a timely and transparent way.  The Docket 09-157 NOI asked some key questions in this area (para. 34-37).  It states
Spectrum allocations and access often hinge on controlling interference between new services and incumbent services, as do licensing and service rules to some extent. The resolution of disputes about potential or actual interference in rulemakings can pose a major impediment to the introduction of new services, devices and technologies, either as a result of long delays in the establishment of service rules or the imposition of onerous and perhaps unachievable technical standards.
These "long delays" and "onerous/unachievable standards" are also key factors in inhibiting innovation.  Unfortunately, few of the commenting parties so far have offered helpful improvements.  In general, the "haves" are happy with the status quo and they don't realize that it will prevent the inventory from having much impact.

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