The current framework for wireless policy in the United States is under pressure on several fronts:

  • It continues to rely heavily on service-specific allocations and assignments that are made primarily by frequency band and geographic location and does not embrace all of the spectrum management approaches possible with today’s technologies and expected to be available with tomorrow’s technologies.

  • Despite revisions aimed at creating greater flexibility, it continues to rely significantly on centrally managed allocation and assignment, with government regulators deciding how and by whom wireless communications are to be used despite growing agreement that central management by regulators is inefficient and insufficiently flexible.

  • It will not be able to satisfy the increasing and broadening demand for wireless communications that is spurred by interest in richer media, seemingly insatiable demand for mobile and untethered access to the Internet and the public telephone network, and growing communication among devices as well as people.

  • It does not fully reflect changes in how radios are being built and deployed now or in how they could be built and deployed in the future in response to different regulations, given that technological innovation has expanded the range of potential wireless services and the range of technical means for providing those services and at the same time has dramatically lowered the cost of including wireless functionality in devices.

Today, the complexity and density of existing allocations, assignments, and uses, and the competing demands for new uses, all make policy change difficult. Decisions will necessarily involve (1) addressing the costs and benefits of proposed changes that are (often unevenly) distributed over multiple parties, (2) resolving conflicting claims about costs and benefits, and (3) addressing coordination issues, which are especially challenging if achieving a particular change requires actions by a large number of parties. Moreover, some parties stand to gain by changing—or advocating for change—while others stand to gain by delay or retaining the status quo.


The Committee on Wireless Technology Prospects and Policy Options believes that, moving forward, the unambiguous goal for spectrum policy

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