FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler at “Wireless Spectrum And The Future Of Technology Innovation” Forum The Brookings Institution

Coverage Type: speech
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States

Now, it’s my job to close this forum by previewing some of the things we will be doing to update spectrum policy. In particular, I want share some thoughts about two next-generation spectrum policies -- incentive auctions and sharing -- that together hold the promise to completely revolutionize the way we manage our airwaves -- and in so doing to provide the underpinning for economic growth.

Shortly, the Federal Communications Commission staff will begin briefing the Commissioners and Congress on the proposed policy decisions necessary for the incentive auction to succeed. These are a tough set of interrelated issues made even more difficult by the detailed instructions the Congress provided in the Spectrum Act of 2012. Here’s the bottom line on incentive auctions: If we get this right, incentive auctions could revolutionize spectrum policy by applying economic forces to the allocation of spectrum and not simply the assignment of individual licenses.

The discussion of unlicensed spectrum offers a natural transition to talk about the other big breakthrough policy -- spectrum sharing. Very soon I will circulate to my fellow Commissioners detailed proposed rules designed to make the PCAST vision a reality. Subject to ongoing discussion with other government parties in interest, this is what I hope to recommend.

  • First, the proposal would include three tiers of prioritization: federal and non-federal incumbents, priority access licensees, and general authorized access users. The three-tiered construct was a key aspect of the PCAST report, and is necessary to realizing the full potential of spectrum sharing.
  • Second, it would include a single, highly flexible band plan, avoiding the analog trap of Balkanizing spectrum into sub-bands, each with its own sets of rules.
  • Third, the proposal would anticipate a wide range of flexible uses. Small cells will undoubtedly be a core use case, but we would not limit the band to such use.
  • Finally, the proposal would reflect economic incentives. Even with the most efficient technology, there will always be places and times where there is rivalry for spectrum access. To that end, the proposal would set up a flexible auction and licensing scheme that leverages the technical capabilities of a Spectrum Access System database.

National Broadband Plan


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