Senators Snowe, Kerry Introduce Comprehensive Spectrum Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) today introduced comprehensive spectrum policy reform legislation to modernize the nation's radio spectrum planning, management, and coordination activities.  The Reforming Airwaves by Developing Incentives and Opportunistic Sharing (RADIOS) Act will set the proper foundation to meet growing demand for spectrum through greater planning and coordination and by promoting more innovative and efficient use of spectrum resources.  This legislation is a modified version of comprehensive legislation introduced by Senators Snowe and Kerry last Congress, but also includes other legislative efforts with bipartisan support and additional provisions that were developed from numerous discussions with experts in the field. 

"The wireless industry has seen explosive growth and amazing innovation over the past decade.  Currently, there are more than 290 million wireless subscribers in the US and there are expected to be at least 150 million mobile broadband subscribers by 2014-a 2,900 percent increase from 2007," said Senator Snowe.  "Unfortunately, the government's current spectrum management framework is inefficient and has not kept up with technological advancements to ensure providers have the necessary wireless capacity to meet growing demand for this finite resource.  Our nation's competitiveness, economic growth, and national security dictate that we address current policy shortcomings, and enactment of this vital legislation will help avert the looming spectrum crisis that could create a major barrier to national growth and innovation at this critical juncture in our economic recovery.  Moreover, this comprehensive approach to spectrum reform will ensure our ability to meet the future telecommunications needs of all spectrum users.  For consumers, these reforms will mean additional choices, greater innovation, lower prices, and more reliable services, which is especially vital to Maine's rural communities." 

"Freeing our nation's airwaves to run at full capacity will help unleash innovation and maintain America's leadership in communications technology," said Senator Kerry.  "We know that our nation's airwaves are a finite resource, and it's more important than ever to use them as efficiently as possible.  The analysis this legislation demands will help drive innovation, encourage competition, and create jobs, all while lowering prices for consumers in Massachusetts and across the country." 

The Senators also noted the RADIOS Act is intended to complement the National Broadband Plan and the President's recently announced Wireless Initiative in an effort to ensure efficient use of spectrum and create the infrastructure necessary to meet America's future telecommunications needs.  "Incentive auctions as proposed in the National Broadband Plan and the Initiative are commendable, but must be part of a more comprehensive approach by also promoting technological innovation and providing for a more robust management system." 

Senators Snowe and Kerry, senior members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and longtime champions of spectrum reform, designed the bipartisan measure to promote more efficient use of spectrum and ensure that the proper framework is in place to meet the future telecommunications needs of the nation.  Specifically, the bill tasks the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to conduct a comprehensive inventory of radio spectrum and perform spectrum surveys to determine existing spectrum use.  Such data would provide a more detailed and up-to-date understanding of how spectrum is currently being used and by whom-data essential to sound policy decisions and spectrum management.  In addition, the legislation requires greater collaboration between the FCC and NTIA on spectrum policy and management-related issues, implementation of spectrum sharing and reuse programs, as well as more market-based incentives to promote efficient spectrum use. 

Furthermore, the RADIOS Act requires a cost-benefit analysis of spectrum relocation opportunities to move certain incumbent users and services to more efficient spectrum bands.  Many legacy wireless services could employ newer technologies to provide more efficient use of spectrum.  The legislation would also establish Wi-Fi hot-spots and allow the installation of wireless antenna systems and base stations, such as femtocells, in all publicly accessible Federal buildings as well as streamline Federal rights-of-way and wireless tower sitings on Federal buildings.  Such efforts would improve wireless and broadband coverage for all Americans and result in lower costs to taxpayers, since spectrum would be utilized more effectively by Federal agencies. 

A copy of the legislation is attached.