FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly this week encouraged the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology to consider implementing spectrum fees for federal agencies as a way to boost government spectrum efficiency.
In a letter to committee Chairman Marsha Blackburn, which was first spotted by the Morning Consult, O’Rielly asked the committee to consider enacting what he called “Agency Spectrum Fees.” Such fees, he said, would provide government agencies – many of whom sit on vast troves of unused or underutilized spectrum – with an incentive to get rid of excess airwaves.
“By establishing an annual cost to government agencies based on their allocated frequencies, which would impact their annual budgets, an agency would have a deeply-rooted interest in minimizing its individual spectrum footprint,” O’Rielly argued in an accompanying blog post. “In other words, imposing a price would force agencies to reconsider their spectrum holdings because they would only want to pay for what is actually needed to accomplish their mission, thereby freeing spectrum for commercial uses. It’s not too dissimilar to having differential pricing for various sized storage units – it rationalizes behavior by getting users to ‘rent’ what is actually needed, minimizing the chance that space goes unused.”
According to O’Rielly, the Federal government currently occupies between 60 and 70 percent of all commercially available spectrum between 22 MHz and 3.7 GHz. If the spectrum fees prodded agencies to release even 15 percent of their holdings, that would figure out to 363 MHz of spectrum, he said.
“I don’t intend, in any way, to trivialize or minimalize the valuable functions for which agencies use spectrum, but the days of reserving or warehousing spectrum on the infinitesimal chance that a particular band might be used in the rarest of occasions need to be brought to an end,” O’Rielly stated.
O’Rielly’s argument comes in the context of a spectrum crunch for commercial wireless carriers as data traffic skyrockets.
According to Cisco’s recently released Mobile Visual Networking Index, global mobile data traffic will increase seven fold over the next few years to hit a whopping 49 exabytes in 2021.
Filed Under: Telecommunications (Spectrum)