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National Spectrum Goals

The Communications Act of 1934 provides, in Section 151, guidance regarding spectrum management objectives. It states that the FCC is to regulate:

so as to make available . . . a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of the national defense, [and] for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property.

Title III of the Act authorizes the FCC to regulate generally the "channels of radio transmission," including the licensing and operation of radio stations, but provides few details on the FCC's objectives for spectrum management. The Act empowers the FCC to act consistently with the "public interest, convenience, or necessity." The "public interest" standard is the primary criterion for apportioning non-federal spectrum in the United States, although the Act mentions the goals of preventing interference among stations, promoting the efficient use of spectrum, and promoting public safety. The Act does not define the "public interest," but instead gives the FCC broad discretion to elucidate and give specific content to the public interest standard.

NTIA has identified spectrum management objectives to guide Federal users of the radio spectrum. These objectives are similar in intent to the Act's guidelines and state that the Federal agencies are to "make effective, efficient, and prudent use of the radio spectrum in the best interest of the Nation, with care to conserve it for uses where other means of communication are not available or feasible." NTIA interprets the standard "effective, efficient, and prudent," and the reference to "the best interests of the Nation" as encompassing the overall benefits the American public derives from radiocommunication services, both Federal and non-federal, as well as the needs of various Federal users and choices among competing users.