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National Telecommunications Information Administration, and Security for the Radio Frequency Spectrum, United States

National Telecommunications Information Administration, and Security for the Radio Frequency Spectrum, United States

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates airwaves in the United States, but in order to make necessary determinations regarding allocation, the FCC turns to the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA). A unit of the Department of Commerce, NTIA works with a number of participants in the increasingly crowded radio spectrum, including the private sector, the Department of Defense (DOD), and various law enforcement and emergency response agencies. Its aim is to meet commercial needs for the radio spectrum while maintaining availability for defense and security communication.

Established in 1978 by Executive Order 12046, NTIA serves as the president's principal advisor on telecommunication policies. On behalf of the President, it manages the radio frequency spectrum, and, in conjunction with the FCC and Department of State, promotes U.S. interests regarding spectrum use at the international level. Among its most important work is management of that portion of the frequency spectrum below 3 GHz. Though this represents about 1 percent of the usable radio spectrum, more than 93 percent of all FCC licenses and federal government frequency authorizations lie within that range.

NTIA supports defense, law enforcement, and public safety in a number of ways. In the emergency conditions following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it responded by going into 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week mode to process all requests for special frequency allocation, and fulfilled nearly 7,000 such requests from entities that ranged from DOD to the White House to the Red Cross. The relationship between NTIA and DOD is a particularly strong one, since 40 percent of all federal frequency allocations are for defense use. Some 56 percent of these are in support of land, sea, and air mobile operations by the military services. NTIA also works closely with the DOD Joint Spectrum Center.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, NTIA found itself confronted with two examples of its classic challenge: meeting security needs on the one hand, and fostering commerce on the other. In the case of third-generation (3G) mobile and satellite-based broadband, as well as that of ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, spectrum space was needed for new, highly significant telecommunications advances. In the case of the UWB allocation, critical government systems used some of the frequencies involved, so in 2000, the FCC began the process of attempting to integrate UWB devices without harming vital communications. To make this possible, NTIA conducted extensive measurements and analysis, including tests using the global positioning satellite (GPS) system.

FURTHER READING:

PERIODICALS:

"Commerce Secretary Participates in China/U.S. Telecom Summit." Communications Today. (October 6, 1997): 1.

Noguchi, Yuki. "'Star Trek' Tech Gets Limited Approval." Washington Post. (February 15, 2002): E1.

Stern, Christopher. "Federal Radio Spectrum up for Bid." Broadcasting & Cable 124, no. 7 (February 14, 1994): 46.

ELECTRONIC:

National Telecommunications and Information Administration. <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/> (March 28, 2003).

SEE ALSO

Commerce Department Intelligence and Security Responsibilities, United States
Electromagnetic Spectrum
FCC (United States Federal Communications Commission)
FM Transmitters

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