EU Radio Spectrum Policy Group Asks a Question FCC and NTIA are Afraid to Ask
There is general agreement in the US that there is a serious shortfall in available public safety wireless systems. This has been exacerbated by the current homeland security situation. But the problem includes massive interoperability problems that I have discussed before, coverage problems that were highlighted by shortcomings on 9/11 in NYC, and the frustration of public safety personnel that they are putting their lives on the line without access to the same up to date technology that life insurance agents take for granted.
I have no doubt that to meet these demands additional spectrum will have to be allocated to both federal and nonfederal public safety organizations. But there is the nagging question of how effectively is the present public safety spectrum being used? Could some of the improved systems use present public safety spectrum that is not efficiently used? This is a question that neither FCC or NTIA want to ask. It reminds me of a former boss at FCC who used to repeatedly say both "Never ask a question unless you are prepared to hear the answer" and "Never tell anyone something they don't want to hear."
The EU is bolder in this respect and its Radio Spectrum Policy Group recently held a public workshop on Optimising the Use of the Radio Spectrum by the Public Sector in the European Union
My UK friends at PolicyTracker described the conference as
The pressure on public sector spectrum users is mounting. The Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) has begun the process of drawing up recommendations on best practice among the emergency services, military and transport sectors. And a group of consultants commissioned by Brussels are a couple of months into a parallel study on improving efficiency in the sector.
While the conclusions of both parties are many months away their terms of reference and initial conclusions do indicate a change in the policy climate. The second strand of the RSPG's brief is to "identify ways to encourage a more efficient use of spectrum by public bodies." Clearly the EU regulators who make up the RSPG suspect efficiency gains are possible or they wouldn't have accepted the Commission's request to provide an opinion on the subject.
The workshop was organized by fellow former FCC staffer Scott Marcus, not a relative, and included many people with whom I had worked on another study for the EU several years ago.
The RSPG speaker at the conference described their goals:
• Main Objective
– identify means to encourage a more efficient use of spectrum by public sector bodies
– best practices –not mandatory guidelines / recs
– emergency and public safety
– public transport
• Identify ways to determine objectively the need for radio resources for public use
–ex-ante justification and
–ex-post review mechanisms
• Propose practical approaches and possible regulatory measures to balance public service and commercial spectrum usage interests
• Propose practical approaches to deal with competing public service usage interests
• Make proposals for EU activities on research and development
• Identify best practices to be considered by national entities having responsibility for
the public use of spectrum:
–availability of information about the use of spectrum by public sectors bodies
–introduction of market-based management tools
–active sharing of spectrum between different public, commercial and private sectors
–national re-farming mechanisms
I hope that FCC and NTIA follow the activities here and seriously consider parallel activities for the US. However, with an election coming I doubt if anyone has the political courage to do so.