Committee Leaders Introduce Legislation to Improve Spectrum Coordination Among Agencies

May 3, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), along with Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and John Thune (R-S.D.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, introduced the Improving Spectrum Coordination Act. The legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to update the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that governs biannual meetings between the agencies to conduct joint spectrum planning.

“The demand for spectrum has skyrocketed since 2003 when the NTIA and FCC signed their last MOU,” said Blackburn. “Naturally, disagreements have increased as spectrum demand has grown. This legislation would help foster a more collaborative relationship between NTIA and the FCC by requiring both agencies to update their MOU to better reflect 21st-century spectrum challenges.”

“Over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic rise in spectrum use and many more disputes over how it is managed,” Wicker said. “This legislation would require the NTIA and FCC to update how they allocate spectrum and resolve disputes to reflect today’s demand for the deployment of next-generation technologies.”

“Spectrum is the lifeblood of communications services,” said Thune. “If the United States is going to win the race to 5G, we must have efficient and effective spectrum management. I appreciate Ranking Member Wicker’s leadership on this legislation.”

The Improving Spectrum Coordination Act would:

  • Foster a more collaborative and cooperative working relationship between the FCC and NTIA;
  • Require that the revised MOU include processes for addressing policy differences;
  • Create a resolution process for resolving disputes, including specific timelines for resolution;
  • Clarify the role of the NTIA as the representative of Federal agencies before the FCC;
  • Ensure the consideration of scientific analyses and other implications of spectrum policy in decision-making;
  • Formalize staff-level working groups for spectrum planning;
  • Outline processes for engaging with the Department of State on matters of international spectrum coordination; and
  • Require the MOU be updated every four years, and that the agencies jointly report to Congress annually on spectrum planning activities. 

Click here to read the full bill.