WASHINGTON (Oct. 4, 2021) — Cracks in the spectrum management system in the United States have shaken up the spectrum licensing process and injected uncertainty into telecom markets.

Two separate agencies regulate spectrum in the United States, the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NITA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), each with their own mandates and goals. The NTIA’s primary focus is to protect federal operations from harmful interference, while the FCC focuses on efficiency via promoting the public interest; however, these two similar but ultimately disparate approaches can lead to tension between the agencies, and confusion for users and operators. In a new policy study, Jeffrey Westling examines the existing systems and recommends several reforms to improve spectrum management.

“Cracks continue to emerge with the dual agency approach, most notably due to the differing incentives between the FCC and the NTIA. Easing these tensions will help resolve management issues before they become more serious disputes,” said Westling.

According to Westling, steps like updating the memorandum of understanding between the agencies, increasing technical resources and incentivizing sharing may help mitigate these tensions, but more extensive structural reforms to the U.S. spectrum management regime may be necessary.

Read the full study here.

Top three Points

  1. Two separate agencies regulate spectrum in the United States, the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NITA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), each with their own mandates and goals. 
  2. The NTIA’s primary focus is to protect federal operations from harmful interference, while the FCC focuses on efficiency via promoting the public interest; however, these two similar but ultimately disparate approaches can lead to tension between the agencies, and confusion for users and operators. 
  3. Steps like updating the memorandum of understanding between the agencies, increasing technical resources and incentivizing sharing may help mitigate these tensions, but more extensive structural reforms may be necessary.