Lenard Urges FCC to Consider Property Model
WASHINGTON D.C. - The soundest approach for protecting public safety through spectrum is to give public safety officials more flexibility with existing allocated spectrum, including the ability to lease the spectrum to others, says Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow Tom Lenard. In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission today, Lenard, PFF's vice president for research, urges the agency to ensure cost-effective, efficient use of existing public safety spectrum before awarding more.
The FCC is gathering data in order to comply with the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which requires the Commission to assess the spectrum needs of federal, state and local emergency response providers and report the results to Congress within a year of passage of the Act, which will be December 17, 2005. "Propertyzing this spectrum would allow it to be more efficiently utilized," Lenard writes, "would provide significant new resources for the public safety community to obtain state-of-the-art technologies and for other purposes, and would enhance the overall cost-effectiveness of our public-safety efforts."
There is no reason to limit a market-based system of flexible-use, resalable licenses to the private sector, Lenard argues, because "it can also have major benefits in assuring efficient use of the spectrum for public safety and other public sector uses." He says public safety officials could lease spectrum that often goes unused during non-emergencies, or even lease all dedicated spectrum and obtain service from a commercial provider, using cost savings to purchase much-needed equipment.
"A cost-effective strategy is, simply, one that is efficient--that yields the maximum public safety benefits for the public safety dollars spent," Lenard argues. While the best way to further cost-effectiveness is to propertyze public safety spectrum, he says at a minimum "the Commission should base its decisions and its report to Congress on a sound cost-effectiveness analysis that takes into account the opportunity cost of spectrum and its public safety benefits, as well as the costs and public safety benefits of other inputs, such as state-of-the-art communications technology that is also needed by emergency response providers."
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.