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Spotlight on Commerce: Rebecca Dorch, Senior Spectrum Policy Analyst, Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)


 

Guest blog post by Rebecca Dorch, Senior Spectrum Policy Analyst, Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

I am the Senior Spectrum Policy Analyst at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Institute for Telecommunication Sciences located in Boulder, Colorado. I have had unique opportunities and remarkable experiences over the last 25+ years by being involved with spectrum policy as a federal employee, first at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and now at NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS). I also have experienced the transformational impact of spectrum policy as a citizen—from faster broadband speeds and the growth of Wi-Fi to today’s 5G deployments. Spectrum policy is a long game, so the successes, failures, and impacts are not generally immediately apparent or recognized. 

ITS is home to the Nation’s Spectrum and Communications Lab and has a long history of impactful technical research and development, much of which is foundational to spectrum policy. Thinking about Women’s History Month cannot help but bring to mind Anita Longley, a much-admired spectrum pioneer from ITS. Along with her ITS colleague Phil Rice, in the 1970s Longley developed the Longley-Rice propagation model. The Longley-Rice propagation model (also known as the Irregular Terrain Model or ITM) was developed to improve the reliability of communications systems by harnessing the computational capabilities presented by computers to provide a means by which terrain roughness could be factored into the determination of signal strength.

Anita Longley’s propagation model is still used today and many advanced wireless analysis tools have the basic Longley-Rice methodology embedded in their programming. Propagation models are critical to spectrum sharing decision-making and pave the way to 5G and beyond. Indeed, Longley-Rice was one of the propagation models used to establish technical standards for spectrum sharing between military radars and the recently launched Citizens Broadband Radio Service.

This past year, I have realized even more clearly how the many years of technical, regulatory, and policy work by dedicated professionals and experts at both the NTIA and FCC have facilitated the exponential growth of new and innovative communications services. This technological growth has helped ease the connectivity challenges of many during 2020.

Having been in this field my entire career, I also realize there is enormous work still needed within the spectrum policy arena to realize the potential of 5G, improve spectrum utilization and efficiency, and automate spectrum management. These challenges are multidisciplinary and present opportunities for people with interests in electrical engineering, computer science, physics, atmospheric sciences, cybersecurity, data science, economics, philosophy, ethics, project management, and law to work together. Federal service provides opportunities for all to learn, advance, lead, and make a difference—whatever their gender. It is both humbling and exciting to be a part of that and to know that my work makes a difference in the world.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Women’s History Month.