Risk Assessment in Spectrum Policy

Tags: Spectrum Policy / Technology Policy

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.

A report on this conference by Jeff Ward-Bailey is available. (pdf)


  • Phil Weiser
    Hatfield Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School
  • JP de Vries
    Director Emeritus and Distinguished Advisor, Silicon Flatirons
Session 1: Risk Analysis in Engineering and Public Policy
  • Tom Power — Moderator
    Senior Vice President and General Counsel, CTIA-The Wireless Association
  • William Boyd — Commenter
    Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado
  • Francisco Zagmutt — Commenter
    Managing Partner, EpiX Analytics
  • Gregory Rosston — Commenter
    Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, SIEPR
  • Paul Fischbeck — Keynote
    Professor, Social and Decision Sciences, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

Session 2: Risk-Informed Regulation
  • Anna Gomez — Moderator
    Partner, Wiley Rein LLP
  • Susan Fox — Commenter
    Vice President for Government Relations, The Walt Disney Company
  • Giulia McHenry — Commenter
    Former Senior Associate, The Brattle Group
  • Shawn Jackman — Commenter
    Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Clinical Mobility
  • Gary Marchant — Keynote
    Director, ASU Center for the Study of Law, Science and Technology

Session 3: Risk Analysis in Spectrum Policy
  • Rob Alderfer — Moderator
    Vice President, Technology Policy, CableLabs
  • Joan Marsh — Commenter
    Vice President Federal Regulatory, AT&T
  • Peter Tenhula — Commenter
    Deputy Associate Administrator for Spectrum Management, Office of Spectrum Management
  • Robert Weller — Commenter
    Vice President of Spectrum Policy, National Association of Broadcasters
  • Julius Knapp — Keynote
    Former Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology (retired), Federal Communications Commission

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