Repacking and Inventorying Federal Spectrum: The Role of Federal Employees

by: Sarah Oh

George Mason University, Department of Economics, Students

September 5, 2014

Journal of Law, Technology and Policy, Vol. 2015:2, 2015 (Forthcoming)

Federal radio engineers have the expertise and job description to perform federal spectrum repacking. However, these federal employees have high costs of coordination due to administrative constraints. The inter-agency structure of federal spectrum management creates fragmentation on spectrum decisions. Radio engineers are disaggregated from their counterparts in other agencies and removed from policy decisions made by spectrum policy committees. Several proposals for institutions to manage federal spectrum have been advanced this year to bring federal spectrum into a modern organizational service. Institutional reform requires a closer analysis of the role of federal employees who perform repacking and inventory of federal spectrum. Institutional reform is needed to incorporate best practices from federal property management to federal radio spectrum reallocation to better align incentives of federal employees, particularly engineers who manage custom and localized federal radio equipment.

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Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: spectrum policy, federal spectrum management

JEL Classification: K23, L96

Skorup Discusses Spectrum Issues in Heartland Institute Podcast

The IEP’s Brent Skorup recently sat down with the Heartland Institute’s Jim Lakely to discuss the diminishing availability of spectrum in mobile broadband networks. Skorup recently published a paper on the topic in which he argues that the federal government must sell spectrum to private mobile broadband providers in order to alleviate the “spectrum crunch.” Skorup offers specific policy proposals in his paper that would facilitate the most efficient transfer of spectrum from the federal government to the private market. The Heartland Institute is a Chicago-based think tank that promotes and researches free market policy.

In the podcast, which can be found here, Skorup discusses his findings and situates the issue of diminishing spectrum in the broader perspective of federal communications policy. Additionally, Skorup’s paper that is the subject of the podcast is available here.

Skorup on the Efficient Use of Federal Spectrum

IEP’s Brent Skorup has recently published a paper through George Mason’s Mercatus Center that examines proposals for reallocating spectrum held by the federal government for use in mobile broadband networks. Considering the quickly increasing popularity of mobile broadband services, the efficient transfer of spectrum to the private market has wide implications for the information economy. From the abstract:

With the popularity of smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi, and other wireless devices that require as an input transmissions over radio spectrum, the rising demand for bandwidth is rapidly using up the available supply of spectrum. Spectrum demand increases significantly every year with no end in sight, yet the “greenfields” of available and unallocated spectrum are gone. Redeployed spectrum must come from incumbent users. Today, the largest holder of spectrum appropriate for mobile broadband is the federal government, which uses spectrum for a variety of military and nonmilitary uses. Federal users generally use spectrum only lightly and the inefficiencies have triggered bipartisan calls for selling the spectrum used by federal agencies to the private sector, particularly to mobile broadband carriers. To date, reclaiming federal spectrum is a painfully slow process and billions of dollars of social welfare are lost with every year of delay. This paper examines proposals for reclaiming spectrum and puts forth some best practices to ensure more efficient use of spectrum. Policymakers should consider creating a commission with authority to require the sale of spectrum so that agency-controlled spectrum is quickly and easily redeployed to its highest-valued uses. In the long run, Congress should also require agencies to pay for the spectrum they possess, just as agencies pay market prices for other inputs.

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