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FCC and NTIA Memorandum of Understanding on Spectrum Coordination

Date: 
January 31, 2003

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) executed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on spectrum coordination. The MOU, signed by FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Nancy J. Victory, will apply to coordination of spectrum issues involving both federal and non-federal users.

Chairman Powell and Assistant Secretary Victory have both emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation and coordination of spectrum issues throughout the government to promote efficient use of the radio spectrum in the public interest.

Upon signing, Chairman Powell stated, “This marks a historical step forward in spectrum policy reform. Much has changed in the sixty plus years since the original MOU was adopted. As the Task Force recently found, spectrum policy is simply too important to be locked in such a policy time warp. The Commission and NTIA will now be more responsive, cooperative, and effective. Ultimately, this partnership will mean more efficient regulatory processes that will speed the deployment of new innovative spectrum-based services to consumers. I look forward to working with Assistant Secretary Victory and her team on additional ways to improve spectrum management.” Chairman Powell has identified spectrum policy reform as one of the key strategic goals of his chairmanship.

“To deal effectively with critical spectrum management issues, it is essential that the U.S. government works together as ‘One Spectrum Team’,” said Assistant Secretary Victory. “Chairman Powell and I and our staffs have worked hard to achieve a close and productive working relationship that operates effectively and delivers results. The MOU we signed today memorializes that relationship to ensure that this heightened level of cooperation between our agencies will continue for years to come. Through better coordination, we can manage the spectrum more effectively, facilitating the introduction of new technologies, the satisfaction of critical user needs and, ultimately, the enhancement of our nation's economic and homeland security.”

The FCC and NTIA have been operating under an MOU dating back to October 1940. The new agreement establishes procedures relating to frequency coordination, as well as spectrum planning provisions contained in the Communications Act. This MOU establishes a framework for compliance with the statutory requirements and stipulates that the Chairman of the FCC and Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information shall meet biannually to conduct joint spectrum planning. The MOU also is consistent with a recent General Accounting Office report that focused on the need for greater cooperation between the two spectrum policy organizations.

The Communications Act assigns joint jurisdiction for spectrum management to the FCC and the NTIA at the Department of Commerce. The FCC is responsible for non-federal users (e.g. broadcast, commercial, public safety, and state and local government users, etc.) and NTIA is responsible for federal users. The majority of spectrum is shared between federal and non-federal users, in which case the FCC and NTIA must coordinate spectrum policy.