The identification of federal spectrum resources to be shared with commercial wireless users, and the importance of infrastructure in boosting wireless broadband deployment, were spotlighted at hearings conducted by the House Communications & Technology Subcommittee and the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday. The House hearing was conducted in tandem with the introduction of the Spectrum Pipeline Act (SPA), which, among other things, would require the FCC to (1) draft service and auction rules for the sale of federal spectrum to the wireless industry, and (2) develop plans to relocate affected federal users to alternative frequency bands.
As Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY), the sponsor of the SPA, challenged her colleagues to come up with “a comprehensive plan to determine the best manner in which to increase the availability of spectrum,” Dennis Robertson, the vice provost-research for the Illinois Institute of Technology, advised lawmakers that the 1000-1240 MHz band, the 1240-1710 MHz band and the 2.7-3.0 GHz band “would be . . . bands to further investigate” for potential wireless broadband use based on research he has conducted on “establishing a better [means] of assessing the current level of use.” According to Robertson, research results also depict “very little activity” in the 1.0-1.7 GHz band and in the 4.2-4.4 GHz bands that were allocated, respectively, for federal satellite and radar services and for aircraft radar altimeters. Replying to questions posed by subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Robertson asserted that a “huge opportunity” exists for sharing of these spectrum resources among federal and commercial wireless users.
Meanwhile, at Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) described the development of broadband deployment legislation as “the most important work that can be done by the committee,” quipping that, without adequate broadband infrastructure, smart phones are no better than “expensive paperweights.” While agreeing that “all of us have the same goal” of promoting infrastructure deployment and affordable access to broadband, Gary Resnick—the mayor of Wilton Manors, Florida and the chairman of the FCC’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee—stipulated that deployment goals must also be balanced “with the critical need for local governments to maintain reasonable control and authority over the placement of these facilities in our communities.” As Resnick maintained that many localities have streamlined tower siting practices and have taken other steps to expedite deployment, Jonathan Adelstein, the president of wireless infrastructure association PCIA, suggested deployment goals could be met through the passage of “dig once” legislation that has been proposed by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and that would enable broadband providers to lay infrastructure during highway construction, utility and similar projects.