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Blog Category: FCC

Promoting Spectrum Sharing In the Wireless Broadband Era

Promoting Spectrum Sharing In the Wireless Broadband Era

Cross blog post by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration 

In the summer of 2010 -- just three years after the introduction of the iPhone -- President Obama called on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to collaborate with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to free up critical radio spectrum to fuel the breakneck growth of the wireless broadband market. Today, this directive is more pressing than ever, with the wild popularity of smartphones and tablets driving unprecedented commercial demand for mobile bandwidth.

Identifying the spectrum to keep up is a top priority for NTIA, which manages federal spectrum usage. And promoting spectrum sharing across the public and private sectors is an important key to achieving this goal.

At NTIA, we recognize that spectrum is the lifeblood of the mobile broadband revolution. We are committed to ensuring the industry has the bandwidth it needs to continue to innovate and thrive.

But we face an important balancing act since federal agencies also rely on this precious and finite resource to perform all sorts of mission-critical functions – from communicating with weather satellites (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to navigating passenger planes (Federal Aviation Administration) to operating weapons systems (Defense Department).

Working in consultation with the FCC, which oversees commercial and other non-federal spectrum uses, NTIA has made good progress toward President Obama’s target of freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum for licensed and unlicensed wireless broadband services by 2020.

Through fiscal year 2014, NTIA had formally recommended or otherwise identified 335 megahertz of spectrum for potential reallocation. That includes spectrum in the 1695-1710 and 1755-1780 bands auctioned off in the FCC’s successful AWS-3 auction.

The auction, which will fund important federal programs and pump billions into the U.S Treasury, showcases the potential for spectrum sharing. While many of the incumbent federal users in the auctioned bands will be relocating to other frequencies, some will instead be sharing their spectrum with new users.

To achieve the President’s goal, we need to move beyond the traditional approach of clearing government-held spectrum of federal users in order to auction it off to the private sector for exclusive use. Too often, relocating incumbent operations is too costly, too time-consuming and too disruptive to federal missions. The future lies in sharing spectrum – across government agencies and commercial services, and across time, geography and other dimensions in the future.

Working to Ensure Americans Remain Connected When Disaster Strikes

Cross-post by Stephen Fletcher, Associate Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

With the start of summer comes the beginning of the hurricane season along much of the U.S. coast. And with hurricanes comes the increased possibility that communications could be disrupted.

Less than two years ago, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of death and destruction including disrupted communications for millions of people and thousands of businesses along the East Coast. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported that about a quarter of cell sites across 10 states and the District of Columbia were knocked out of service during the peak of the storm.

As the Executive Branch agency primarily responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information issues, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been working with other federal agencies to help Americans remain connected in the wake of natural disasters or other emergencies.

In its report released last August, the White House’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force called on NTIA and the U.S. Department of Energy to work with the FCC to develop recommendations that help facilitate improved resiliency for cell phone towers, data centers and other critical communications infrastructure in the event of a power disruption following a disaster. NTIA and the Energy Department expect to complete the recommendations later this year.

In the meantime, the FCC has developed some steps consumers can take to ensure they remain connected should disaster strike and power is lost. The recommendations, developed with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), include charging your wireless phones and other wireless devices ahead of a coming storm and using text messaging instead of making a phone call to help alleviate network congestion during and after a storm strikes.

For more information on what to expect from the upcoming hurricane season, check out the latest predictions for the Atlantic and Central Pacific regions from NTIA’s Commerce sister agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Commerce Department Hosts Event to Commemorate 20th Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act

In observance of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Department of Commerce hosted an event today at the Herbert C. Hoover Building in partnership with the White House and the Federal Communications Commission.  At the event, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced a $15 million American Recovery and Reinvestment grant to Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. for a project that will expand broadband adoption among people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The event also included a technology showcase highlighting technologies developed to empower the daily lives of Americans with disabilities, the launch of the FCC’s new Accessibility and Innovation Forum, a video presentation chronicling personal histories of those with disabilities who have been impacted by technology and a performance by Gallaudet University students. Both the showcase and program were free and open to the public.  Read more  |  Related NTIA release