Government often seems quite adept at solving yesterday’s problems, building or protecting systems that are irrelevant today. Sometimes, to protect these inventions of yesteryear, government can hoard our spectrum resources, the building block for communications. Rather than abandon projects where spectrum is lying fallow or pursuing means to share the spectrum in such a way that more use can be made of this precious resource, sometimes government just holds on being unwilling to let go.
Communications traffic of all sorts continue to skyrocket, with consumers finding increased value in the inventions of entrepreneurs. As ever more interesting uses of spectrum are introduced into the marketplace ever more spectrum is needed. An exciting innovation-fueled future faces a significant challenge as it depends on a current and continued pipeline of available spectrum. While various efforts are underway to free more of our spectrum for uses that consumers demand, still more needs to be done just to keep up with the exponential use of this precious resource. Broadband is too important for too much of economy to not be a priority issue in Washington. And far too important to waste.
Yet, the federal government has wasted 20 years and more than $1 billion in taxpayer money in a quest to create DRSC (Dedicated Short-Range Communications) technology, a system for vehicle to vehicle communications. During that time, precious spectrum bandwidth, the 5.9 GHz band, was locked up and made unavailable for the American people, even though it was, and is, critical to expansion of faster broadband. Government decided that automated vehicles would best be served by connective technology. The marketplace thought otherwise, heading down a different road to the technologies being deployed today. The federal government still will not let go.
Something similar is now happening with another band of spectrum, the 24GHz band, and the Commerce Department does not want developed for broadband use. This band is close to the band used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to observe changes in the weather. They claim use of the 24 GHz band could interfere with weather prediction because of interference with a certain sensor. While the Administration is claiming that the sky is falling, turns out that prediction well misses the mark.
NOAA has based their claims on a certain sensor technology that was never used, and ultimately scrapped thirteen years ago. Thirteen year old unused technology as the basis for a claim today? Newer, less sensitive technology is already being used. This is a 3G analysis in a 4G world of what could happen because of 5G. Given that their speculative claims are about technology never used, one would think the debate would end there. But even assuming those errant claims were true, NOAA was provided a 5-year process at the FCC with multiple opportunities to consult and comment to defend their claims. Throughout those many years no objections or even concerns were raised on the public docket, not even when the FCC formally established rules two years ago, and then announced its plan to auction the band last year. But now, instead of being prepared for the predicted change, NOAA is drumming up a storm of objections at the last moment, based on their unused, antiquated system.
During massive storm events we are warned to be prepared for what is coming, to not take the predictions lightly. After a hurricane strikes and the floods begin, we are often made aware of stranded people on their rooftops flagging down rescuers at the last minute because they did not appropriately prepare. NOAA has apparently missed its own lessons.