Maine Senator urges FCC to wrap up pending proceedings before committing to spectrum policy

Like famed producer the Bruce Dickinson – who had a fever the only prescription for which was cowbell (actually, MORE cowbell) – the FCC in recent months has seemed to have a fever the only prescription for which is “MORE Broadband”. And that fever, in turn, has sent the agency on an intense quest for available spectrum, a quest which has led the Commission to ogle the TV band as a potential source of spectrum ripe for re-purposing. 

But now Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has sent a letter to the Commission which may encourage TV broadcasters fearful that their spectrum is doomed to be sacrificed in the short term to the seemingly bottomless Broadband Maw. Before they get too far down the line in designing the National Broadband Plan, Senator Snowe urges the Commissioners to “clear the table” of five long-running proceedings relating to approximately 100 MHz worth of “currently unused or severely underutilized” spectrum. She refers in particular to:

  • WCS Band at 2305-2320 MHz and 2345-2360 MHz;
  • AWS-3 Block spectrum at 2155-2175 MHz;
  • 700 MHz D Block at 758-763 MHz and 788-793 MHz;
  • 2 GHz Mobile Satellite Band at 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz;
  • H Block spectrum at 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz ; and
  • J Block spectrum at 2020-2025 MHz and 2175-2180 MHz

The issue of spectrum availability is not new to Senator Snowe. She is a co-sponsor of S.649, a bill calling for a comprehensive and accurate inventory of spectrum between 300 megahertz and 3.5 gigahertz. (While that bill has shown little sign of life since its introduction early last year, the Senator has expressed her continued optimism that it will be passed by the Senate this year.)

Whether or not Senator Snowe is correct with respect to the particular details of each of the proceedings she lists, she is definitely correct in her underlying point: the Commission really should have a handle on exactly what spectrum is available, and how it is being used, before the agency starts to scavenge one particular portion of the band, parting it out like car thieves cannibalizing a boosted Escalade. After all, if there is considerable spectrum just sitting around unused – whether that’s because the FCC hasn’t yet handed it out to anyone to use, or because the folks to whom it has been handed out are simply warehousing it – it makes sense to focus on using that spectrum first, before disarranging other folks who are, in fact, actually using the spectrum they have.