SpectrumX’s research paper explores spectrum sovereignty on tribal lands

By Yvonne Chang 

The recent research paper entitled “Spectrum Sovereignty on Tribal Lands: Assessing the Digital Reservations Act” was published on August 1, 2022. The Federal Communications Commission currently governs the electromagnetic spectrum on sovereign tribal lands. As a result, tribal governments are unable to self-manage and self-govern spectrum on their lands perpetuating the digital divide and a source of lost revenue.

Ilia Murtazashvili, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at University of Pittsburgh and SpectrumX Economics and Policy Research Working Group partner, is one of the authors of the paper. He commented that, “the analysis of the DIGITAL Reservations Act is part of the SpectrumX Tribal Lands Project. One significant aspect of our project is to consider carefully how greater autonomy of Native Nations to manage spectrum can address the digital divide on tribal lands.” 

This work “evaluates the polycentric governance regime envisioned by the DIGITAL Reservations Act, including potential coordination issues as a result of 574 sovereign nations asserting authority over spectrum, challenges which may arise from perceptions tribal governments lack governance capacity, and ongoing metapolitical issues regarding whether the FCC will give up authority in the current monocentric system of spectrum governance.” Co-author Darrah Blackwater added, “While there is still a long way to go, this paper adds momentum to the movement toward the justice and equity of spectrum sovereignty.”

The published paper is authored by SpectrumX leadership and research partners Ilia Murtazashvili, University of Pittsburgh, Martin B. H. Weiss, University of Pittsburgh, with consultant Darrah Blackwater.

SpectrumX is working to find innovative advancements in both policy and technology on the radio frequency spectrum. The published paper can be found at SSRN, here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4178671

About SpectrumX

SpectrumX is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of its Spectrum Innovation Initiative, under grant number AST 21-32700. SpectrumX is the world’s largest academic hub where all radio spectrum stakeholders can innovate, collaborate, and contribute to maximizing social welfare of this precious resource.

To learn more about SpectrumX, please visit spectrumx.org.


Christina Clark, Research Communications Specialist

SpectrumX / Notre Dame Research / University of Notre Dame

cclark26@nd.edu / 574.631.2665