Similar to the way the U.S. space exploration program of the 1960s spurred development of technologies that later formed the foundation of modern microprocessors and other systems, building networks to share spectrum could lead to better mechanisms for keeping wireless service alive, Gorenberg said.
For example, PCAST proposed that commercial and government users could coexist on the same frequency if the commercial devices knew where active federal users were and could back off on that channel near their locations. The panel proposed using a geographic database of devices similar to those set up for unlicensed "white spaces" between TV channels.
If two networks were built in the same area and programmed to coexist like this, one could take over for the other wherever there was a failure on either one, he said. He compared the system that would manage this arrangement to air traffic control for frequencies. Though PCAST didn't specifically call for federal and commercial networks to back each other up in emergencies, development of spectrum-sharing technology could lead to better tools for such arrangements, he said.
"Sharing basically allows you to coordinate better," Gorenberg said.