Communication technologies rely on invisible electromagnetic waves, called spectrum, to function. Radios, cell phones, Wi-Fi, and even garage door selectors need spectrum to function. Unfortunately, the range of electromagnetic waves that the technology can use is limited, making spectrum an essential but limited resource. As our wireless world grows, it is increasingly important to find ways to free up spectrum.
Unfortunately, without thoughtful planning, spectrum sharing can create problems. When multiple technologies use the same spectral frequency in close proximity to each other, they can cause interference, disrupting vital telecommunications services. This is why the Federal Communication Commission oversees spectrum to promote the public interest, by allowing technologies to use spectrum on a “licensed” (borrowed from auctions by companies to limit interference) or “unlicensed” basis. »(Available free of charge but without interference protection). .
The unlicensed spectrum supports critical technologies including short range radios, Wi-Fi routers, and even baby monitors. Unlicensed spectrum also supports new technologies, many of which would not exist if their inventors were forced to pay for expensive licensed spectrum. American innovation operates on an unlicensed spectrum.
Lack of competition in the telecommunications market makes matters worse, reducing the quality, affordability and reliability of service. The way the FCC administers a spectrum license can either encourage or inhibit competition. Policies that increase the costs of a license prevent new competitors from accessing the spectrum they need to enter the market, raising prices for consumers while limiting choice of providers.
Public Knowledge ensures that the FCC manages spectrum in a way that benefits all Americans. We advocate for policies that open up more spectrum for unlicensed use. We carefully consider the implications of spectrum management and advocate for policies that will benefit the public by supporting policies that encourage competition and prevent larger companies from taking spectrum at the expense of the public.