February 5, 2021.  This week, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued a press release stating that a Memorandum of Agreement has been entered into between the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”), and the National Science Foundation (“NSF”).  The agreement is in support of the NSF’s 2020 Spectrum Innovation Initiative (“SII”).  In particular, the FCC notes that the agreement will allow the FCC and NTIA to make their subject matter expertise available to the NSF, as well as to verify that the NSF’s work in SII is “in alignment with U.S. spectrum regulatory and policy objectives, principles, and strategies.”[1]

This new agreement is reminiscent of the FCC and NTIA Memorandum of Understanding in 2003, which overhauled the two agencies’ cooperation in spectrum coordination for the first time since 1940.  According to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, this new agreement between NSF, FCC, and NTIA “is one step toward revitalizing the interagency coordination process so that it once again is able to produce results for American consumers and the economy…. Better coordination between these agencies ultimately means more spectrum and more innovation to help restore American wireless leadership and build the 5G future.”[2]

NSF’s Spectrum Innovation Initiative seeks to address the increasing demand for electromagnetic spectrum by promoting innovation.  Some of the efforts that the NSF is pursuing include: establishing National Radio Dynamic Zones to test ranges that would allow for better sharing; promoting research to develop more effective use of the spectrum for passive and active and cross-disciplinary applications, and creating education and training programs to encourage the development of a skilled and diverse workforce.[3]

One of the primary goals of the NSF initiative is to found the Spectrum Innovation Initiative National Center for Wireless Research (“SII Center”).  The NSF is soliciting proposals from institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations interested in establishing the SII Center, which brings anticipated funding of $25 million.  The solicitation document notes several purposes for the center, including ensuring United States leadership in wireless technologies, fostering scientific and technical collaboration, and impacting wireless spectrum research by serving as a hub for the challenging issues spectrum management presents.[4]

[1] FCC JOINS FEDERAL PARTNERS IN SPECTRUM INNOVATION COOPERATION AGREEMENT, Feb. 1, 2021 (https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-369633A1.pdf).

[2] ibid.

[3] See National Science Foundation website at https://www.nsf.gov/mps/oma/spectrum_ innovation_initiative.jsp.

[4] See Spectrum Innovation Initiative: National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research (SII-Center) PROGRAM SOLICITATION NSF 21-558