Cantwell Demands Stringent Protections For Weather Data, Limits On Spectrum Use

“We are not going to short-change weather information”

WASHINGTON, D.C—Today, Ranking Member Maria Cantwell spoke about the importance of respecting science and protecting critical weather data at a hearing of the Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet Subcommittee. Cantwell pressed members of the panel about whether the FCC and the administration should accept and implement the international standard for technical protections for weather sensing operations set at the recent World Radiocommunication Conference.

“I’m still very concerned about the spectrum adjacent to 24 gigahertz,” Ranking Member Cantwell said. “The FCC has approached the issue the worst possible way by just dismissing the science. And obviously at the World Radiocommunication Conference, they adopted better protections. And so, I want to know whether your companies, who have been defending the preferred approach by the FCC, will now respond to what the international community is doing?”

Scott Bergmann, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at the wireless communications industry association CTIA, responded by acknowledging the new international standard, saying: “We believe it’s possible to have both accurate weather forecasting and 5G, and we’re certainly very supportive of the approach that was developed in advance of the World Radio Conference, and also appreciate that additional protections were granted at the World Radio Conference.”

Ranking Member Cantwell then posed a question to Jonathan Adelstein, President & CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, about how the FCC ignored the analyses of the world-class scientists and experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  Mr. Adelstein deferred to the Federal Communications Commission’s position. To date, the FCC has failed to produce a single study to justify their position—which has the potential to set our weather forecasting abilities back decades and endanger Americans in the process. The international standard increased the technical protections limits, but they still fall short of what many experts recommend.

“I can tell you one thing,” Ranking Member Cantwell concluded, “We are not going to short-change weather information or NASA. They’re too darn important. And they have to have forecasting.”

Senator Cantwell has repeatedly raised concerns and asked the FCC to work with NOAA and NASA to find a solution to protect this critical weather data. In May, Cantwell and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to the FCC urging the Trump administration not to allow wireless companies to operate in 24 GHz spectrum until vital weather forecasting operations are protected. And at a Commerce Committee hearing earlier this year, Cantwell raised her concerns again to the FCC commissioners.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with witnesses is available HERE.