Press Release Spectrum Reform

Public Knowledge Urges Congress to Continue Critical Spectrum Reforms

November 3, 2015 ,

Today, Public Knowledge sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate and House Commerce Committees, urging them to continue work on opening more spectrum for commercial use.

Although the budget deal passed last week “takes important first steps” on spectrum policy reform, “much more needs to be done” to maintain America’s leadership in wireless technology and “secure to all Americans the bright digital future they deserve.”

In particular, Public Knowledge urges Congress to address the critical need to expand “unlicensed” spectrum for faster, more powerful next generation Wi-Fi and to accommodate the growing “Internet of Things” (IoT) – devices such as Fitbit and Nest that use unlicensed spectrum to connect to other devices and the Internet. The letter notes that unlicensed spectrum already contributes $220 billion a year to the economy, and “according to Cisco, by 2020, the IoT will connect 50 billion devices, with an economic impact estimated at $19 trillion.”

The letter proposes two ways to make more unlicensed spectrum available, while leaving abundant spectrum for the federal government to use or auction to wireless companies.

  • Create new underlays. Open up all spectrum currently assigned to the federal government to unlicensed use on a non-interfering basis, a traditional mode of unlicensed access called an “underlay.” This would free up enormous amounts of spectrum for the American people at no cost to the federal government.
  • The Wi-Fi dividend. Take a portion of the revenue from future spectrum license auctions and use that to clear additional federal spectrum for unlicensed use. This would ensure that when we privatize the “public airwaves,” we also create a “spectrum commons” for innovation and affordable wireless access.

The following may be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge:

“To march boldly into the digital future, Congress must not stop with the baby steps taken last week in the Budget Act. Letting next generation Wi-Fi share spectrum with federal users will add billions of dollars to the economy without costing the federal government a penny. It’s basically free money. When we do auction spectrum to private companies for exclusive use, the “Wi-Fi dividend” will make sure that enough of the public airwaves remains genuinely open to the public to meet all our spectrum needs.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.