Risk Assessment in Spectrum Policy

Friday, October 23, 2015; 1:00 - 7:00PM
@ University of Colorado Law School, Wittemyer Courtroom, Room 101

In judging whether to allocate new wireless services, government spectrum regulators like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have typically deferred to worst-case arguments by incumbents. Such an approach has many flaws. First, there are many causes and consequences of Radio Frequency (RF) interference, and representing them by single values for extreme cases isn't representative. Second, interference parameters take on a range of values, and a single-value analysis doesn't take the distribution of their probabilities into account. Third, a single-value, worst-case analysis is likely to be overly conservative, with the result that the full value of spectrum use rights is not realized.

The alternative approach of quantitative risk assessment broadens regulatory analysis from just "What's the worst that can happen?" to "What can happen, how likely is it, and what are the consequences?" Such techniques have been used for decades by other regulators, including those responsible for safety-of-life decisions such as Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

This conference will explore what lessons spectrum managers, especially regulators like the FCC and NTIA, can learn from the use of quantitative risk analysis in other regulated industries. It will also map out how risk-informed interference analysis should and could be used in spectrum policy going forward.

The conference will be anchored by three keynote speeches by leading figures in risk assessment and spectrum policy, each followed by a moderated discussion and a closing keynote.

1:00pm - 1:15pm
  • Pierre de Vries
    Spectrum Initiative Co-Director
    Senior Fellow
    Silicon Flatirons
  • Phil Weiser
    University of Colorado Law School
    Executive Director
    Silicon Flatirons
Session 1: Risk Analysis in Engineering and Public Policy
1:15pm - 2:30pm
  • Paul Fischbeck
    Professor, Social and Decision Sciences, Engineering and Public Policy
    Carnegie Mellon University
  • Tom Power
    Senior Vice President and General Counsel
    CTIA-The Wireless Association
  • William Boyd
    Associate Professor of Law
    University of Colorado
  • Gregory Rosston
    Deputy Director and Senior Fellow
    Director, Public Policy Program
    Stanford University
  • Francisco Zagmutt
    Managing Partner
    EpiX Analytics
2:30pm - 2:45pm
Session 2: Risk-Informed Regulation
2:45pm - 4:00pm
  • Gary Marchant
    ASU Center for the Study of Law, Science and Technology
    Lincoln Professor Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics
    Arizona State University
Moderator Discussants
  • Susan Fox
    Vice President for Government Relations
    The Walt Disney Company
  • Shawn Jackman
    Founder and Chief Executive Officer
    Clinical Mobility
  • Giulia McHenry
    Former Senior Associate
    The Brattle Group
4:00pm - 4:15pm
Session 3: Risk Analysis in Spectrum Policy
4:15pm - 5:30pm
  • Julius Knapp
    Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology
    Federal Communications Commission
  • Rob Alderfer
    Vice President of Technology Policy
  • Joan Marsh
    Vice President Federal Regulatory
  • Peter Tenhula
    Deputy Associate Administrator for Spectrum Management
    Office of Spectrum Management
    National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
  • Robert Weller
    Vice President of Spectrum Policy
    National Association of Broadcasters
Please note: per university alcohol policy, only registered guests will be admitted to the reception.
5:30pm - 6:30pm


Risk Assessment in Spectrum Policy
Rapporteur: Jeff Ward-Bailey


  • Welcome and Session 1: Risk Analysis in Engineering and Public Policy (YouTube)

  • Session 2: Risk-Informed Regulation (YouTube)

  • Session 3: Risk Analysis in Spectrum Policy (YouTube)

  • Playlist

Keynote Presentations

News Coverage

  • Communications Daily, "FCC Approach on Interference Continues To Evolve, Knapp Says" (link)


  • Conference briefing (pdf)

  • Kaplan & Garrick (1981), On the quantitative definition of risk
    (pdf; especially sections 1-3)

  • Apostolakis (2004), How useful is quantitative risk assessment? (link)

  • Zagmutt (2015), Quantitative risk analysis (QRA) and risk management: Can it be used to inform spectrum policy decisions? (pdf)

  • De Vries (2015), Risk-informed interference assessment: A quantitative basis for spectrum allocation decisions (SSRN)