Sen. Warner calls for inventory of nation’s radio spectrum

The United States needs an inventory of the nation's radio spectrum in order to help speed development of next-generation wireless networks, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) said Thursday.

Warner made the comments at an event sponsored by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Warner said many government agencies use only a portion of the spectrum they've been allocated over the years, leaving many bands "semi-fallow" and therefore inefficiently used. This problem is compounded because often military and intelligence sectors are especially reluctant to show "non-use," Warner explained.

Public safety users helping to build a new nationwide communications network should also give back the portions of radio spectrum that they used prior to joining the new network, he said. This would be a fair trade, he suggested.

Warner said the spectrum auctions TV stations can use to sell some of their unused capacity, which were authorized in last year's tax cut extension, are a good start when it comes to figuring out ways to clear unused or underutilized portions.

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But he said the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration — the Commerce Department agency responsible for managing government spectrum use — needs to speed things up. Information gained by conducting an inventory would help in that process, he said.

A number of bills have been considered by the Senate to require the NTIA to conduct an inventory, but none made it past the committee level.

“There would be no harm done” by actually taking the inventory, Warner said.