Federal Communications Commission Spectrum Management

RCED-89-62: Published: Jan 12, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 19, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information regarding the: (1) Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) management of the radio frequency spectrum used by the private sector and state and local governments; and (2) National Telecommunications Information and Administration's (NTIA) management of the radio frequency spectrum used by the federal government, and its view of FCC management.

GAO found that: (1) FCC and NTIA did not maintain an inventory of unused radio frequencies because they believed that the information was already available from other sources; (2) on June 1, 1988, FCC compiled 18 inventories of unused and lightly used radio frequencies in response to a congressional request; (3) FCC and NTIA used the public interest provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 as criteria in allocating frequencies; (4) FCC believes that a long-range plan for anticipating demand and setting aside spectra to meet demand would not yield any benefit due to constant technological changes; (5) NTIA believes that FCC could benefit from developing a long-range plan and participating in NTIA efforts to develop a national spectrum management plan; (6) while FCC relied on its licensing requirements to ensure efficient use of assigned radio frequencies, NTIA monitored frequency usage; (7) although FCC has not conducted an evaluation or study of its radio spectrum management within the past 10 years, eight studies conducted by individual staff members showed that the traditional FCC rule-making approach was time-consuming and difficult to adjust to changing conditions, failed to provide necessary information for evaluating competing services, and hindered introduction of new technologies; and (8) NTIA funded three contractor spectrum management studies to obtain necessary information for long-range spectrum planning.

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