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Mixed Biden Strategy Views

House Commerce Leaders Eye AI to Improve Spectrum Efficiency

House Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and others are hopeful that AI can aid in spectrum management activities, they said during a Communications Subcommittee hearing Tuesday. Rodgers and Pallone also praised the Biden administration Tuesday for releasing its long-awaited national spectrum strategy (see 2311130048). However, Senate Commerce Committee member Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., was far less enthusiastic about the plan, which directs NTIA to study the 3.1-3.45, 5.03-5.091, 7.125-8.4, 18.1-18.6 and 37.0-37.6 GHz bands over the next two years for potential repurposing.

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AI and machine learning can monitor networks to determine what bandwidth is available at a specific time,” Rodgers said during the hearing. “This could significantly improve the efficiency of our communications infrastructure without any disruption for people using the services, enhancing the user experience.”

Pallone and House Communications ranking member Doris Matsui, D-Calif., noted the FCC’s August notice of inquiry on AI and other technologies in managing how spectrum is used (see 2308030075). AI “may be able to optimize government and non-government use of spectrum so that this limited natural resource is used more efficiently for wireless and satellite connectivity," Pallone said. He also mentioned the FCC’s planned Wednesday vote on an NOI exploring AI, machine learning and patterns of use to help identify fraud in robocalls and robotexts (see 2310250070).

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel “has led the charge” at the commission “to capture AI’s promise for more efficient and resilient communications networks,” including to improve “spectrum efficiency,” Matsui said. “As demand for our airwaves grows, we’ll need to be more nimble and efficient in managing that limited resource. That’s why the FCC is exploring more intelligent networks with devices that can manage their own transmissions.” Matsui plans to push House Communications to “use our significant jurisdiction to support the responsible deployment of AI in areas like spectrum management.”

Information Technology Industry Council Vice President-Trust, Data and Technology Policy Courtney Lang highlighted AI’s potential to “be used to optimize spectrum allocation by determining demand and environmental conditions.” Initial “demonstrations of using AI to adapt the modulation and coding scheme have shown gains in spectral efficiency of” about 10%, “depending on the scenario,” she said.

The Biden administration’s spectrum strategy release “is a welcome step toward enhancing the way we use and manage this critical resource and sets the stage for strengthening America’s technological leadership,” Rodgers and Pallone said. “It is particularly meaningful that this plan reaffirms the joint leadership of” the FCC and NTIA “in managing our nation’s spectrum,” a role that lawmakers have tried to shore up amid policy disagreements with DOD and the Transportation Department (see 2212200077).

Rodgers and Pallone cited their push to reinstate the FCC’s spectrum auction authority, which remains stalled (see 2311010001), as being “vital to providing certainty to the public and securing our global competitive edge -- including against countries like China that do not share our fundamental values of democracy, free speech, and human rights. We will continue to work with our colleagues in the House and Senate to get our nation back on track to establish a strong, sustainable spectrum policy that benefits consumers and advances U.S. interests at home and around the world.”

The plan “deliberately undermines our military’s use of federal airwaves,” Fischer said. “Modern equipment vital to our nation’s defense, including aircraft and radar, operate on specific airwaves and cannot be moved. The administration’s first priority must be the safety and security of our country -- that means preserving a portion of the finite spectrum for vital military use.”

Fischer appeared to be cricitizing Biden administration mentioning the lower 3 GHz band as a frequency for NTIA to study, lobbyists told us. Spectrum legislative talks have stalled in part because Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and others want to see the results of a DOD study of how repurposing the lower 3 GHz band for 5G use would impact military systems on the frequency that is believed to disfavor an auction of any of that airwaves portion (see 2310180062).