Getting Beyond Command-and-Control Regulation in Wireless Spectrum

Tags: Spectrum Policy / Technology Policy


There is consensus in the spectrum policy community that the economic and social potential of spectrum can best be realized by moving away from traditional command and control spectrum management and give more decision making power to wireless system operators. With the advent of flexible, tradable, exclusive licenses and modern unlicensed allocations, users can then decide what technology to use, and what services to deploy.

However, the intense sibling rivalry between flexible exclusive licensing and unlicensed has obscured the fact that this transition has only just begun: most frequencies are still managed under a command and control regime. Further decentralization of spectrum management and delegation of powers will lead to more intensive and productive use of radio technology in many (though not necessarily all) cases, leading to new and cheaper services that will benefit consumers, companies and the economy at large.

This conference will assess progress in the migration away from command and control regulation, and explore various ways to accelerate the decentralization and delegation of regulation. While it starts with the hypothesis that decentralization and delegation is desirable, this is an assumption whose validity and scope will be tested during the discussion.


The powers that the FCC has delegated to operators in the new flexible exclusive licensing and unlicensed regimes are quite limited. For example, with a few exceptions parties cannot change the operating parameters of their services like maximum transmit power beyond the narrow confines of the rules, even if this would be mutually beneficial; and parties cannot take enforcement action against each other directly, but have to go through the severely resource-constrained FCC Enforcement Bureau. All federal radio operation is managed in a command-and-control manner: even though the NTIA effectively delegates many powers to allocate, assign and manage federal government spectrum to the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), departments and agencies don’t have the ability to negotiate deals with private parties.

The conference will tackle two broad areas, each explored in a panel discussion, where decentralization and delegation may be useful:

  • Bottom-up coordination strategies
  • Enforcement and Adjudication


Welcome and Introduction
  • Phil Weiser
    Hatfield Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
  • JP de Vries
    Director Emeritus and Distinguished Advisor, Silicon Flatirons
Opening Keynote
  • Meredith Baker
    President and Chief Executive Officer, CTIA-The Wireless Association
Panel One: Bottom-Up Coordination Strategies
  • JP de Vries — Moderator
    Director Emeritus and Distinguished Advisor, Silicon Flatirons
  • Paul Margie
    Partner, Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP
  • Mark Gibson
    Senior Director, Business Development, Comsearch
  • Milo Medin
    Vice President, Google Access Services, Google Inc.
  • Nancy Victory
    Partner, Wiley Rein LLP
  • Thomas Dombrowsky
    Engineering Consultant, Wiley Rein LLP

Panel Two: Enforcement and Adjudication of Spectrum Rights
  • Phil Weiser — Moderator
    Hatfield Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
  • Dale Hatfield
    Spectrum Policy Initiative Co-director and Distinguished Advisor, Silicon Flatirons
  • Matt Larsen
    Chief Executive Officer, Vistabeam
  • Douglas Sicker
    Department Head, Engineering and Public Policy Professor, Engineering & Computer Science
  • Travis LeBlanc
    Chief, Bureau of Enforcement, Federal Communications Commission
  • Raymond Gifford
    Partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP
Closing Dialog
  • Bryan Tramont — Moderator
    Managing Partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP
  • Mignon Clyburn
    Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

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