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A Spectrum Revolution: Deploying Ultrawideband Technology on Native American Lands

30 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2003  

John C. Miller

Stanford Law School

Christopher P. Guzelian

Thomas Jefferson School of Law


While most Americans depend on cell phones and the Internet, many Native American tribes still lack access to adequate telecommunications services. The recent development of ultrawideband ("UWB") technology, which operates by using radio spectrum occupied by existing radio services, could provide tribes with access to high-speed, low cost wireless telecommunications services, and, more generally, could serve as a model for reducing proprietorship of Internet service provision. However, a fierce political struggle and technological debate has culminated in a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC" or "Commission") to limit use of UWB for outdoor communications systems. Because UWB might be a solution to the difficulties that tribes have had in modernizing their telecommunications infrastructures, tribal lawyers should explore legal tools to enable deployment of UWB-based communication systems on tribal lands. This article provides a thorough analysis of the legal options available to tribes in attempting to obtain the legal right to use UWB-based communication systems. We demonstrate that litigation, though perhaps appealing at first glance, would be time-consuming, costly and unlikely to succeed. Thus, we conclude tribes should invest their resources in lobbying the FCC to waive their UWB regulations.

Keywords: spectrum, FCC regulation, Native American law, Indian law, sovereignty, trust doctrine

JEL Classification: L96, K00, K11, K19, K32, L82

Suggested Citation

Miller, John C. and Guzelian, Christopher P., A Spectrum Revolution: Deploying Ultrawideband Technology on Native American Lands. CommLaw Conspectus, October 2003. Available at SSRN: or

John C. Miller

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
909-374-7046 (Phone)

Christopher P. Guzelian (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4248 (Phone)

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