Unlike many countries, the head of the US regulator for commercial spectrum, the FCC, is directly appointed by the President. This means that each change of Administration results in a new Chair.
The last Chair, Ajit Pai, took an energetic approach to spectrum management. He quickly implemented the 600 MHz auction and several mmWave awards that were already in the pipeline. He also established some mid-band auctions, including the lucrative award of the 3.7 - 3.98 GHz band.
President Biden, presumably engaged in extensive research on spectrum management, is yet to nominate Pai's replacement. In fact, no President has taken this long to nominate a replacement since President Jimmy Carter in 1977
For the time being, one of the Democrat Commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, has stepped in as Acting Chair. She is widely regarded as knowledgable and competent, but is hamstrung by a 2-2 tie at the FCC between Democrats and Republicans. A permanent Chair would likely need a 3-2 majority to act decisively.
Carter's nominee to Chair the agency was Charles Ferris, who would usher in an age of deregulation that introduced a property rights approach to spectrum and ultimately auctions. It remains to be seen if the current delay will augur any such radical change in spectrum policy.
Spectrum management in the United States
, including the flurry of activity in the final months of the Pai FCC, is discussed in our updated country profile. We have also recently updated profiles for the Brazil
, and France
. All profiles are available as part of the PolicyTracker
Spectrum Research Service.