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“Spectrum” refers to the public airwaves that technologies like radios, broadcast television, and mobile phones rely on to function. These public airwaves are overseen by federal agencies, which are responsible for licensing spectrum and optimizing its use to prevent harmful interference.
Many argue that a spectrum “crisis” is imminent—and while it is true that the use of spectrum-reliant technologies is increasing, there are ways to make more efficient uses of spectrum while simultaneously spurring innovation and benefiting the public.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Opening up spectrum for more unlicensed uses and increasing the efficiency of all spectrum uses will greatly benefit competition in wireless broadband, innovation in technology that relies on short-distance radio communication, and even the needs of first-responders, like firefighters and ambulances, who rely on immediate radio communication to save lives.
PK works to ensure that the public airwaves serve the public—whether that means improving wireless broadband services or making spectrum available to first-responders and other unlicensed uses.
There is a long history of disagreements over how best to reform spectrum and, unfortunately, there are few easy answers. PK advocates for taking a deeper look at how to make the best possible use of unused and underutilized spectrum. For example, in “white spaces”, the unused areas of spectrum between TV channels, PK advocates for quick resolution so that technological innovation can move forward into this space, and works to prevent spectrum reform legislation from closing off white spaces from unlicensed uses. PK also advocates for possibilities like dynamic, opportunistic sharing of spectrum rather than static allocation.
What you can do to help
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- Give policy makers a piece of your mind: act now.
For more information
- For information on the current spectrum battle on the Hill, check out thislist of legislation.
- For an approachable take on why spectrum policy matters and why it affects you, read this blog post by PK staff attorney John Bergmayer,Spectrum Policy Time Machine.
- Read PK Legal Director Harold Feld's written and oral testimony on behalf of the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC) before the House of Representatives hearing "Promoting Broadband, Jobs and Economic Growth through Commercial Spectrum Auctions", June 1, 2011.
- Read these two PK whitepapers on spectrum reform: Breaking the Logjam: Creating Sustainable Spectrum Access Through Federal Secondary Markets and Breaking the Logjam: Some Modest Proposals for Enhancing Transparency, Efficiency and Innovation in Public Spectrum Management.
- Watch all the video footage from the 2010 PK conference Toward a Sustainable Spectrum Policy.
- Read about the 700 MHz spectrum auction.