David Kirkpatrick

June 26, 2009

Broadband access news from New America Foundation

Hot from the inbox, here’s a set of links from the New America Foundation on spectrum scarcity (or lack thereof) and broadband access. Lots to ponder from a very useful think tank.

As the FCC begins its year-long process to recommend a National Broadband Plan, one starting point is to unlock publicly-owned spectrum assets that can facilitate ubiquitous, affordable broadband access.  Public policy seems stymied by the myth that spectrum is scarce. In reality, only government permission to access the airwaves (licenses) is scarce – spectrum capacity itself is barely used in most locations and at most times. This underutilized spectrum represents enormous, untapped,capacity for pervasive broadband connectivity.  


On Thursday, June 25th, New America’s Wireless Future Program released four new papers outlining several technology and policy reforms to enable dynamic, opportunistic access to these underutilized spectrum resources:


The End of Spectrum Scarcity: Building on the TV Bands Database to Access Unused Public Airwaves

By Michael Calabrese, Director, Wireless Future Program


This paper recommends that the Obama administration and the FCC make mapping and actively facilitating opportunistic access to unused and underutilized frequency bands a priority as part of any national broadband policy through: 1) A White House-led initiative to conduction an Inventory of the Airwaves that maps how our public spectrum resource is being utilized or underutilized in various bands, by both commercial and government users; 2) build on the TV Bands Database to include frequency bands not being used at particular locations or times;  and, 3) commence a set of inquiries into the technologies, incentives, institutional arrangements and “rules of the road” that can best facilitate a future of more open, intensive and opportunistic sharing of the nation’s spectrum resource.


You can read the paper here.


Revitalizing the Public Airwaves: Opportunistic Unlicensed Reuse of Government Spectrum

By Victor Pickard and Sascha D. Meinrath, Director, Open Technology Initiative  


The paper proposes a “third way” for the airwaves: opportunistic reuse of government spectrum on an open and unlicensed basis.  One-time auctions are no longer the best way to ensure the advancement of new technologies and expanded broadband access for underserved areas. The paper concludes with a series of policy recommendations for implementing opportunistic reuse of government spectrum. By exploring models for spectrum management that take advantage of technological innovations, the paper aims to initiate a policy debate on spectrum reforms with profound implications for the future of communications.  

You can read the paper here.


New Approaches to Private Sector Sharing of Federal Government Spectrum  

By Michael J. Marcus, Principal, Marcus Spectrum Solutions LLC 


Although the military currently shares radar bands with users of low-power, unlicensed devices, it does so in a overly limited and entirely passive way. Advances in spectrum sharing technologies allow more intensive and efficient sharing of underutilized federal bands with the private sector — and among federal agencies — if only the government would adopt a more affirmative policy and upgrade its technologies and protocols.  Unfortunately, the current federal spectrum management system provides little incentive to allow sharing of existing federal spectrum.    

You can read the paper here.


A Potential Alliance for World-Wide Dynamic Spectrum Access: DSA as an Enabler of National Dynamic Spectrum Management

By Preston F. Marshall, Director, Information Sciences Institute, Viterbi School of Engineering, USC and Former Program Manager, DARPA‘s NeXt Generation Communications 


The paper describes how Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA) technologies can greatly benefit incumbent federal and non-federal spectrum users – and are a win-win for the military in particular. Marshall highlights four erroneous preconceptions about DSA that create unnecessary resistance among spectrum incumbents who could benefit from moving to a more dynamic and networked approach to spectrum access. In particular, while there is tension between the advocates and military authorities in considering sharing spectrum within the United States, there may be mutual interest in obtaining access for DSA devices internationally.  Marshall also urges advocates of dynamic spectrum access to  adopt a more nuanced approach that does not seek to supplant spectrum management nor incumbents.


You can read the paper here.


The Wireless Future Program also hosted a companion event, with a panel of experts including the above authors, along with Wharton School Professor Kevin Werbach, who co-led the Obama Administration’s FCC Transition review,  and Tom Stroup, CEO of Shared Spectrum Company.


You can download audio and video from the event here.




New America’s Wireless Future Program develops and advocates policy proposals aimed at achieving universal and affordable wireless broadband access, expanding public access to the airwaves and updating our nation’s communications infrastructure in the digital era. For more information, visit http://www.newamerica.net/programs/wireless_future.

About the New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

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