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Kneuer promises report on government’s use of spectrum

The Bush administration’s top telecommunications policy advisor said a report will be released early this year detailing the federal government’s use of spectrum, information largely kept out of the public’s eye even at a time when public and private entities are clamoring for a larger slice of a finite supply of airwaves.

John Kneuer, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said the federal government spectrum usage report has been drafted and the final version would be put out for public comment. “We’re not the font of all wisdom on these things…We’ll have an opportunity for the first time to collectively across the government take an analysis on that and also get the benefit of input from private industry to say, ‘You know, we may have other solutions. We may have other technologies.’ So that is a huge change in the way we do things around here.”

Kneuer said NTIA and the Federal Communications Commission could act this spring on a component of the Bush spectrum initiative to identify more government and non-government spectrum for sharing among federal agencies, commercial operators and state and local governments. NTIA’s spectrum sharing recommendations will first be reviewed by a newly-formed federal advisory committee. The panel is assisting NTIA in the implementation of President Bush’s spectrum program.

Meanwhile, Kneuer, speaking to reporters, said congressional mandates for NTIA to oversee a $1 billion public safety radio interoperability grant program and the transition from analog TV to digital DTV represent “enormous priorities,” in addition to long-standing spectrum policy responsibilities. Kneuer said NTIA is getting assistance from the Department of Homeland Security to help it meet its Sept. 30 deadline for dispersing all the monies earmarked for public safety communications interoperability grants.
On wireless issues, Kneuer declined to take a position on whether unassigned broadcast guard bands-nicknamed “white space”-should be freed up for unlicensed use as opposed to licensed operations.
And on a related front, Kneuer said the Bush administration is helping to push broadband deployment, and expressed confidence President Bush would meet his 2007 goal for universal and affordable broadband access. Kneuer said some statistics that show the United States is behind at least a dozen countries in broadband penetration are misleading. He said those statistics do not represent the strides the administration has made in getting high-speed Internet connections to more citizens.
Kneuer chose not to volunteer the administration’s position on requests by Cyren Call Communications Corp. and public safety agencies to set aside 30 megahertz-half of the total 700 MHz package set for auction by January 2008-for first responder communications. However, Kneuer said the 24 megahertz at 700 MHz already assigned to police, firefighters and medics would go a long way to meeting public safety’s broadband spectrum requirements.

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