Posted by Milo Medin, Vice President of Access Services

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission adopted proposed rules that -- if finalized later this year as planned -- will implement a 2012 recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and put spectrum to better use for broadband.  The proposed rules include some of the most forward-thinking spectrum policy anywhere in the world, and the FCC should be commended for moving aggressively towards implementation.

The key idea is that modern database technologies will allow commercial use of spectrum that historically has been dedicated to federal purposes, when and where the government doesn’t have immediate need for it.  Additionally, this new model allows flexible commercial use of the spectrum, where the database can mediate between protected operations like cellular LTE, and unprotected operations (which could be WiFi-type devices), without the government having to pick one or the other.  

The government will also benefit from having commercial devices in their bands.  Federal users will be able to buy lower-cost and higher-performance equipment based on consumer smartphone technologies.  It’s a win-win approach that lets government agencies continue to use their spectrum and take advantage of the commercial ecosystem, while also helping meet the growing demand for mobile broadband and device connectivity.  

Google has long advocated for more efficient use of spectrum through sharing technologies.  We operate an FCC-approved Spectrum Database that enables the use of vacant TV broadcast channels for wireless broadband.  And, we’ve built a prototype Spectrum Access System that is in use at our headquarters in Mountain View, California.  We believe spectrum sharing can unlock huge consumer benefits compared with traditional approaches of clearing existing users to make way for new ones, which can take as long as a decade to implement when it is possible at all.

It also is important that the FCC continue pushing hard to allow flexible use of spectrum in multiple bands. Different radio frequencies are suited to different applications.  For instance, the 600 MHz TV broadcast spectrum that Congress designated for voluntary recovery is especially useful for longer range services that provide excellent coverage, while higher frequencies (like the 3550 MHz band that’s at issue in today’s FCC rules) are ideal for quickly and affordably scaling up capacity in densely populated areas.  In these bands and others, federal policy should maximize the availability of spectrum that’s usable for broadband under a variety of business models.

Google welcomes the new FCC rules as a major step forward.  We’re committed to continue to work with the FCC and other federal agencies to make shared commercial access a reality, while ensuring federal operations are safeguarded.