U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today led a hearing titled, “The State of Spectrum Policy,” to examine the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA’s) role in spectrum management and policymaking. During the hearing, Thune questioned industry experts on new ways to improve the spectrum policymaking process in order to generate peak potential for consumers.
“Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless communications,” said Thune. “Next-generation wireless networks require efficient and effective use of low, mid, and high bands of spectrum. If we do not have proper management of this limited resource, we simply won’t have enough of the right kinds of spectrum available. And in the global race to deploy next-generation networks and services, we have a responsibility to furnish Americans with the spectrum-fueled 5G ecosystem that will be needed to maintain our competitive edge. This is particularly important for those of us in more rural parts of America. If inadequacy of spectrum resources makes 5G less viable, it will be the rural areas where it no longer makes sense to deploy next-generation telecommunications services.”
Thune’s full remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing reviewing the state of U.S. spectrum policy.
“This Committee has long recognized the need for a thoughtful approach to spectrum policy and the important role both the FCC and NTIA have in spectrum management.
“I appreciate all of you taking the time out of your schedules to discuss this topic.
“Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless communications.
“Next-generation wireless networks require efficient and effective use of low, mid, and high bands of spectrum.
“If we do not have proper management of this limited resource, we simply won’t have enough of the right kinds of spectrum available.
“And in the global race to deploy next-generation networks and services, we have a responsibility to furnish Americans with the spectrum-fueled 5G ecosystem that will be needed to maintain our competitive edge.
“This is particularly important for those of us in more rural parts of America.
“If inadequacy of spectrum resources makes 5G less viable, it will be the rural areas where it no longer makes sense to deploy next-generation telecommunications services.
“Here in the United States, NTIA is responsible managing the federal government’s spectrum use and the FCC for managing all other uses.
“Both NTIA and the FCC have taken important steps to make more spectrum available, but more work must be done.
“The FCC, acting in a bipartisan manner, has moved forward with bold proposals to make thousands of megahertz of spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed, fixed and mobile use, and it has proceedings underway to make even more spectrum available.
“Importantly, at the end of this year, the FCC is planning an auction to make 280 megahertz of C-band spectrum available for commercial licensed use and it is crucial that auction goes forward without any delays.
“This mid-band spectrum is key to the United States winning the race to 5G.
“And as more and more Americans are relying on connectivity like Wi-Fi during the coronavirus pandemic, we must also recognize the critical role unlicensed spectrum plays in the communications landscape.
“Unlicensed spectrum is responsible for transmitting a significant amount of the data in our networks and will play a tremendous role in the development of the Internet of Things.
“But as I mentioned before, if we do not have proper management of spectrum, we will not have sufficient access to the spectrum for commercial purposes.
“We all know the demand for spectrum resources will continue to increase with the development of new technologies.
“And this demand will result in government agencies, businesses, and other groups competing for these resources, which is why I have always supported an all-of-the-above approach to make sure we efficiently use our limited spectrum resources.
“With respect to commercially-licensed spectrum, in my view, it is essential the FCC is allowed to rely on the independent technical and legal expertise of its bureaus and staff and remain the sole expert agency to regulate non-federal uses of spectrum, as directed by its statutory authority through the Communications Act.
“The reviews of spectrum usage rights undertaken by the FCC are rarely simple.
“I appreciate Chairman Pai’s efforts to make more spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use and the entire Commission’s focus and trust in the technical analysis of its engineers to make spectrum decisions in the interests of our national and economic security.
“Commercial spectrum usage rights, whether through FCC-issued licenses or FCC-adopted rules, provide the certainty necessary to incentivize and enable returns on massive investments in research and development, manufacturing, infrastructure deployment, and innovations in applications dependent upon commercial spectrum.
“And when spectrum is made available, successful spectrum policy must establish predictable rights for private entities to use the airwaves, from satellite to Wi-Fi and terrestrial wireless to broadcast.
“Simply put, efficient and effective spectrum management requires clear rules and recognized rights for spectrum users.
“It is also essential for NTIA, working with federal agencies through the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee, to continue to improve the efficiency of federal spectrum.
“Making the Spectrum Relocation Fund a better resource for studying spectrum and relocating federal incumbents where feasible is essential if we are to continue making federal spectrum available for commercial use.
“Sound spectrum management policies and procedures will keep spectrum in the pipeline and will help retain American leadership in wireless communications.
“I believe we need to make sure the interagency process when making these decisions is transparent, and this is only going to be more important as we work to free up additional spectrum for commercial use.
“We have a distinguished panel before us today and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on ways to improve the spectrum policymaking process to generate the most value for consumers.
“Joining us today we have Mr. Tom Power from CTIA—The Wireless Association, Dr. Roslyn Layton, a Visiting Researcher at Aalborg University, Mr. Mark Gibson who serves as the Director of Business Development at Comsearch, and Mr. Michael Calabrese from New America’s Open Technology Institute who is appearing with us virtually today.
“Thank you for being here.
“I’ll now turn to Ranking Member Schatz for his opening remarks.”