Tech industry officials Wednesday urged members of Congress to back the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration as it works to persuade federal agencies to give up some spectrum to the wireless industry.
"If Congress wants to see more happen, it needs to be a reliable partner in pushing [NTIA] for progress and backing them up" when they are challenged by federal agencies, Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, said during a Capitol Hill briefing.
Association for Competitive Technology Executive Director Morgan Reed said Congress "can do more to help NTIA."
The Obama administration is coming under pressure from wireless companies to do more to meet its goal of providing 500 megahertz of new spectrum for wireless broadband by 2020 by getting federal agencies to give up some of their spectrum.
"Previous administrations did free up more government spectrum" than the current administration, Mehlman said.
The president signed spectrum legislation into law in February focused on getting broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum for broadband. But wireless industry officials argue that this will only provide some of the spectrum needed to keep up with the growing pressure from the increasing use of smartphones and other wireless gadgets. Mehlman and others note that U.S. government agencies currently control more spectrum than the governments of other countries. In addition, they say many agencies are under-utilizing the spectrum they now have.
Some lawmakers are sympathetic to the view and have begun pushing the administration to act. Reps. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., and Doris Matsui, D-Calif., recently introduced legislation that would give the Defense Department and other federal agencies five years to give up for auction a chunk of spectrum in the 1755-1780 band, which the wireless industry has been seeking.
The NTIA has released several reports identifying blocks of spectrum that could be auctioned to wireless companies. An NTIA spokeswoman said the agency has made "significant progress" in meeting President Obama's spectrum goal.
"We are committed to maximizing the efficient use of spectrum while protecting critical government missions," the spokeswoman said. "Recently, we outlined a path forward, involving a combination of sharing spectrum and relocating federal users, that will enable spectrum to be auctioned and put to commercial use more quickly and in a more cost efficient manner than the old method for making spectrum available."