AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 30 Radio Frequency Interference
Special Session, Monday, May 31, 2004, 2:00-3:30pm, 610/612

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[30.02] A Collision of Interests - Protecting Radio Astronomy from Interference in a Free-Market Environment

P. A. Vanden Bout (NRAO)

The protection of radio astronomy (RA) from radio frequency interference (RFI) is becoming increasingly difficult. Established mechanisms for the management of spectrum in the United States and throughout the world have provided a degree of protection from RFI by assigning certain bands to RA on an exclusive or shared use basis. Explosive growth in commercial spectrum use has created spectrum crowding outside the RA bands, especially at lower frequencies below 3 GHz. Constellations of low-earth-orbit satellites are a particular problem to RA in that they always have transmitters above the horizon and these transmitters can spill unwanted emissions into the RA bands from their adjacent operating bands. The desire to study the early Universe presents a new challenge for RA with respect to RFI. The RA protected bands were selected for frequencies of important spectral lines. For objects in the distant, redshifted Universe, these lines can appear at all frequencies below the rest frequency and observations may be needed where the RA bands offer no protection. The growing needs of RA occur at the same time that commercial demand for spectrum is driving the Federal Communications Commission and the International Telecommuncations Union to consider entirely new approaches to spectrum management. These approaches would favor intensive commercial use of spectrum over scientific use in that decisions would be largely based on economic and efficient use considerations. It has even been proposed by some proponents of change in spectrum management policy that the entire spectrum be sold to the highest bidders in one global auction. While this is unlikely to happen, it is indicative of the climate in which RA spectrum managers currently work.

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