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Commerce Dept. pushes for new spectrum rules

Department aims to resolve interference problems and suggests government agencies be reimbursed if they move out of their spectrum.

The Commerce Department recommended that a law be passed so government agencies can be reimbursed for the cost of moving their wireless services to new spectrum.

Two reports released Thursday by the agency's National Telecommunication and Information Administration pushed for the reimbursements, along with dozens of other recommendations for U.S. spectrum policy.

The NTIA also urged the Federal Communications Commission to join with private industry, the Department of Homeland Defense, and regional state and local governments to develop a plan to address wireless issues that affect public safety such as interference and spectrum shortages.

Many of the suggestions are timely. The FCC is now reportedly close to resolving interference problems between Nextel Communications and some emergency personnel. The issue, which has been unresolved after three years of negotiations, is a painful example of how the current set of wireless rules and regulations are under strain.

"Just as steel, lumber, oil and natural gas were key natural resources that supplied our economy in the 20th century, spectrum is increasingly important in the 21st century," according to the authors of the reports.

Last year, President Bush asked the Department of Commerce and the other federal agencies to develop a U.S. spectrum policy. The reports Thursday "answer that challenge" by ensuring "our spectrum policies keep pace with powerful new technologies that benefit and protect every American," Michael D. Gallagher, acting assistant Secretary of Commerce, said in a statement.