Warner wants to inventory, sell-off government airwaves

As more people rely on devices like smartphones and the wireless networks that connect them, the U.S. government should free up some of its airwaves, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Tuesday.

“We’ve got to have more spectrum. The world is moving to wireless,” Warner said, speaking at an event about connected devices hosted by the Center for Public Policy Innovation.

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Private companies and government agencies need to use spectrum efficiently, he said.

“It has been a bear” to get the defense and intelligence branches of government to examine how they use their airwaves, he said. “We have to keep the pressure up on the public sector to free up more spectrum.”

Warner repeated his calls for an inventory of government-controlled spectrum. During the last Congress, Warner and then-Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced legislation that would have required government agencies to inventory spectrum use.

Getting the government to record how spectrum is being used “should be low hanging fruit,” Warner said Thursday.

Increasing available spectrum will mean American innovators can do more with connected devices, but that will require conversations about digital privacy, Warner said.

There needs to be “an appropriate debate about what level of privacy are we willing to give up for national protection,” especially after this year’s revelations about U.S. surveillance, he said.

“Trying to get that balance right is a really, really hard issue.”