Market-Based Allocation Should Be the National Spectrum Strategy

Today, Roslyn Layton, PhD filed comments in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Agency’s (NTIA) request for public comment on the development and implementation of a National Spectrum Strategy (NSS) for the United States. Dr. Layton’s comments declare that market-based allocation should be the National Spectrum Strategy (NSS). She observes that the governance of federal spectrum within the Department of Commerce has changed little in a century. By contrast, market-based allocation, primarily the competitive auction, may be the single most important telecom policy innovation, bringing hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue to the Treasury, allocating scarce resources wisely, and driving increasing spectral efficiency. She suggests that the US military will still be the best in the world with a market-based spectrum policy and that the present lack of exclusive, licensed spectrum is a national security risk.

“Pricing and privatizing federal spectrum is not a new idea,” said Roslyn Layton, PhD, Visiting Fellow, Aalborg University Center for Communication, Media and Information Technologies. “The many uses, needs, technologies, and applications of wireless spectrums can never be fully known by regulators. Regulators can never get the necessary and sufficient information to manage effectively. Just as we understand the limits of the planned economy, the returns of a planned spectrum economy will always be inferior to a competitive market.”

“The US military can still be the best in the world with market-based spectrum allocation,” Layton continued. “Overwhelmingly, US military operations are predicated on addressing conflicts in foreign theatres. . . other than for training and essential tracking, satellite, and surveillance, the US military does not need spectrum for operations within the United States… If the military needs additional spectrum, it could immediately commandeer it from license holders with the appropriate war power authority. In the meantime, the spectrum could be working for Americans rather than sitting little used.”

“America’s lack of licensed, exclusive use spectrum is a national security risk,” Layton concluded. “The federal government sits on 70 percent of the so-called spectrum “beachfront”, some 2500 MHz, used primarily for radar and radio navigation. The government’s holdings amount to more than four times what America’s five major wireless carriers (T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Dish, and US Cellular) have in mid-band frequencies for 5G. The US is in an existential battle with China for 5G and is trying to do it on scraps of mid-band spectrum.”

Read Roslyn Layton’s testimony on NTIA’s website:

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About Roslyn Layton, PhD:  Roslyn Layton is an international technology policy scholar. She empowers policymakers with evidence and supports the research agenda for technology policy. She explains complex topics in everyday language with accessible examples so that people can understand. She teaches people how to think critically and to ask critical questions.

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