Mixed messages on means for determining spectrum availability

When the issue of spectrum re-purposing pops up, the related issue of spectrum inventory tends to pop up as well. Some members of Congress have been calling for the Commission to conduct such an inventory since 2009. The Commission has not initiated any formal proceedings along those lines, although it has repeatedly insisted that it has a good handle on the whole spectrum thing and that its assessment of the need for re-purposing is valid.

In February, 11 Members of Congress sent Chairman Genachowski a letter observing (again) that it would be a good idea to conduct an inventory so that we can all have “a complete picture of who is licensed to use what airwaves and how effectively they are being used”.

In a response dated March 18, Genachowski advised that the Commission has “inventoried the spectrum over which it has jurisdiction”, thereby producing “one of the most substantial and comprehensive reviews of spectrum in [the Commission’s] history”. He then waxed eloquent about two “tools” – “LicenseView” and “Spectrum Dashboard” – that “reflect our understanding of where the most significant spectrum opportunities lie”. I’ll let the Chairman describe those “tools”:

LicenseView is a comprehensive online portal to information about each spectrum license; it presents data from multiple FCC systems in a searchable, user-friendly manner. The Spectrum Dashboard, originally released last year, identifies how non-Federal spectrum is currently being used, who holds spectrum licenses and where spectrum is available.

I think it’s fair to conclude from this that the Chairman was telling the folks in Congress that if they want to see the FCC’s spectrum inventory, they need look no farther than LicenseView and Spectrum Dashboard. (Actually, there wasn’t anywhere else to look. While he provided website addresses for LicenseView and Spectrum Dashboard, Genachowski cited no other document or resource where any inventory-like undertaking might be found.)

In any event, curious about the long-sought and (apparently) now-realized spectrum inventory, I went to the two web addresses provided by Genachowski. When I got to the LicenseView page, I noticed a handy “learn more” button, so I clicked on it, only to find myself staring at a warning that LicenseView “is not intended for analysis of spectrum utilization or spectrum holdings of licensees.” 


Looking further down the LicenseView page, I found (amid other disclaimers) the following:

The information contained [in LicenseView] has not been relied upon by the Commission to analyze the competitive marketplace or assessing [sic] the spectrum holdings of service providers in any particular geographic area.

More curious than before, I scampered over to the Spectrum Dashboard page and clicked on the “learn more” button, which took me to a second page (headline: “About Spectrum Dashboard”) advising me that:

[t] he Spectrum Dashboard does not constitute the official licensing records for the Commission. Specifically, the FCC makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information maintained in the Spectrum Dashboard.

At the bottom of that second page, I found another “learn more” button, which took me to a page titled “Understanding Your Results”, which informed me that

[t]he data and analyses contained herein are not relied upon by the Commission in analyzing the competitive marketplace or assessing the spectrum holdings of wireless service providers in any particular geographic area.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but if LicenseView and Spectrum Dashboard don’t constitute complete or official FCC records, and if the FCC isn’t willing to vouch for the accuracy of either, and if the FCC itself doesn’t rely on either, then they don’t seem to be particularly good evidence of the existence of a reliable spectrum inventory. The Commission undoubtedly has access to the information necessary to assemble such an inventory, and some of that information may even be available through LicenseView and Spectrum Dashboard. But in their present forms, those “tools” don’t really seem to do the trick, as the FCC’s own disclaimers acknowledge.

But as I said, maybe I’m missing something . . .