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Category Archives: FCC

FCC to Consider Additional 5G Spectrum; Getting Tough on Municipalities

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Commissioner O’Rielly (Photo Don Bishop)

The FCC will seek comment on making additional spectrum available in the 26 GHz and 42 GHz bands for flexible terrestrial wireless use in the third installment of its Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, which makes millimeter wave spectrum, in the bands at or above 24 GHz available for 5G and the Internet of Things.

“In our conversations with carriers and those that would like to enter the space, they have expressed a great demand for millimeter frequencies,” FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told the audience during the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connectivity Expo, yesterday, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We’re getting ready to auction high-band and push as much spectrum into the marketplace as possible.” O’Rielly said he is also working to make a swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G or advanced 4G. He was interviewed by Kathleen Abernathy of Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

Opening up different bands requires that “you have greater harmonizing and tuning frequencies,” O’Rielly said in an interview with eDigest after his session. “That means opening up 26 GHz when 28 GHz is already available to create a wider swath of spectrum for providing services. In the millimeter wave bands we are going to need bigger chunks of spectrum to get the full capacity and provide the services that the carriers envision.”

FCC Can Pull Multiple Levers to Enable 5G

O’Rielly said he feels the weight of the important role the FCC plays in giving U.S. carriers the opportunity to deploy 5G. With that in mind, the Commission carefully goes about its decision making concerning spectrum and wireless regulation.

Different considerations go into making spectrum available for 5G, O’Rielly said. First, you need to find the appropriate bands that are lightly used for reallocation. Then the spectrum must be auctioned, and the timing of the auction is critical. It must be quick enough to allow the carriers to continue their deployment of infrastructure but not before the entities have raised the capital to bid on the frequencies.

“There is definitely a race to deploy 5G. I believe it is a global race. There are four or five countries that are trying to beat us to have full functioning 5G technology, because they know the benefits to GDP and jobs,” he said. “Our wireless carriers are doing a wonderful job of rushing ahead to deploy 5G, and we are well positioned to be successful.”

More Regulatory Reform on the Horizon

O’Rielly state and local jurisdictions are still acting in ways that impede the deployment of wireless infrastructure and therefore slowing the backbone of 5G.

“We should applaud the good communities that are forward leaning and want to see deployment,” he said. But there are also bad actors that are slowing the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

Among the bad actors, according to O’Rielly, are communities that act out of a desire to charge an inordinate amount of money for access to the right-of-way.  He mentioned, for example, the jurisdiction that demanded $4,000 per small cell. He also blamed delays in deployment on municipalities that either lack of process or have inefficient processes.

The FCC must use its authority to remove regulatory impediments to the deployment and development of networks, O’Rielly said. He hopes the FCC will take action on removing state and local barriers to small cell deployment sometime this summer.

“We have tried to be nice, cajoling the states and municipalities to do the right thing. It hasn’t exactly worked in most cases. We have had increasing problems. There is only so much good will you can expend on one side of the equation,” he said. “Now we are going to go the aggressive route, getting bad actor communities out of the way.”

Net Neutrality Backed by Senate; Now Up to House

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Democrats picked up three Republican votes for their resolution reinstating Net Neutrality yesterday on the floor of the Senate, as the measure passed 52-47.

One of those republicans, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) made it clear that her vote for joint resolution, S J Res 52, was not so much a vote in favor of Net Neutrality but against the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which handed the regulation of the internet over to the Federal Trade Commission.

“Regulating the internet like a utility under a 1934 law is not the way to an open internet. I have never supported Title II regulation and do not support it today,” Murkowski said. “I have voted to pass this resolution today so that we can reset the discussion and move beyond the politics at play here to what is really needed—lasting legislation that will provide certainty and move us beyond shifting regulatory standards that depend on who is running the FCC.”

Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.), who voted against S J Res 52, repeated his call for legislation to keep the internet open through new legislation, not a return to Title 2 regulation.

“People are concerned about the blocking of unlawful internet content, the throttling of internet speeds. Let’s lock it into law. Let’s put rules for the open internet into law, so we fully understand and can move forward in a way that doesn’t have constant ambiguity and back and forth from one FCC to the next,” he said on the floor of the Senate.

The House of Representatives is not expected to pass its version of the net neutrality resolution, so the conversation over internet regulation will spill over into talking points during the mid-term elections in November.

Gil Regev, chief communications Officer at RGK Mobile, said, “While yesterday’s Senate vote has won a majority to reinstate Net Neutrality laws it’s unlikely that the these will actually take effect. That being said, it shows the ever-growing concern over the FCC’s recent decision. The biggest concern here is the power it grants mobile operators and internet providers, both are already competing in an ever-diminishing competitive landscape, with recent mergers and acquisitions. The very essence of the Internet is that it’s open, accessible and free. Net Neutrality came to ensure just that- the freedom to create content, distribute it and develop in an equal playing field. We are running at a very high risk here that the US, for the first time in 30-40 years, will grant clear priority to those managing the infrastructure, which could lead to limited accessibility of users to information sources and a significant slow down in digital development.”

FCC Ponders Future of 2.5 GHz Spectrum

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The FCC is considering updating the licensing of the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band to allow for more flexible use. The 2.5 GHz band (2496-2690 MHz), considered mid-band spectrum for 5G, constitutes the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 gigahertz.

“We need to get this valuable spectrum into the hands of those who will provide service, including 5G, to Americans across the country, particularly in rural areas where the spectrum is currently mostly unused,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a prepared statement.

EBS spectrum in this band, however, currently lies fallow across one-half of the United States, primarily in rural areas, because of outdated regulations, according to the commission. It has gone through several regulatory evolutions.

In 1963, Instructional Television Fixed Service, the precursor to EBS, was established to allow schools to share video content, but the service never took off. The “tortured history” of the ITFS is an example of the FCC’s failed “command-and-control” spectrum management methods, according to FCC Comm. Brendan Carr.

“Two decades later, nearly half of all states had zero ITFS licensees, even though we were essentially giving away licenses for free,” Carr said. “Many educational institutions simply didn’t have the resources or technical knowledge to use the spectrum.”

In 2006, the FCC allowed educational institutions to share instructional materials while leasing unused spectrum, which led to the domination of the band by commercial wireless providers, according to FCC Comm. Michael O’Rielly.

“In fact, of the approximate 2,190 active EBS licenses today, it is estimated that 2,000 of those licenses are leased in most part to commercial providers,” O’Rielly said. “While this is not necessarily problematic, we should stop pretending that this issue is about interactive school television channels or other educational purposes.”

Spectrum at 2.5 GHz has changed hands several times among the commercial carriers. Sprint owns more than 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets, some of which it got when it purchased Clearwire in 2013. Clearwire purchased 2.5 GHz spectrum from AT&T in 2007, which had to be divested as a result of the AT&T/BellSouth merger. Back when WiMAX was the rising technology.

Before making the spectrum open for commercial use through an auction, the FCC proposes to allow applicants physically located in a license area to access the spectrum, including existing EBS licensees, Tribal Nations in rural areas and other EBS-eligible entities.

O’Rielly took issue with the idea of creating new local priority filing windows for preferred entities.

“It is one thing to allow long-standing incumbents greater flexibility to put their spectrum to better use or participate in the secondary market,” he said. “It is quite another to issue new licenses for free or on the cheap, which then – consistent with EBS tradition – could be immediately leased or flipped to commercial providers.  Why would we enrich such middlemen?  Why would we continue the EBS charade and would doing so even be consistent with the law?”

FCC Comm. Jessica Rosenworcel said the spectrum should continue to be used for educational purposes, primarily providing students with internet access at school but also at home.

“What if we repurposed the Educational Broadband Service through an incentive auction?” she said. “What if we expanded the opportunities for spectrum use by auctioning not just licenses in inventory but through overlay rights?  Then what if we took the revenue from this effort and used it to support new initiatives to bridge the Homework Gap—to ensure every child has the internet access they need for schoolwork?”

Model State, Municipal Codes Seek to Speed Broadband Deployment

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee is making progress on its state and municipal model codes for accelerating broadband infrastructure deployment. Both codes, developed by separate working groups, have been reviewed and approved by the committee. Now, during the next couple of months, the two codes will be compared to see if and where they differ.

Douglas Dimitroff of the New York State Wireless Association and chair of municipal working group said additional work needs to be done to harmonize the codes.

“We want to make sure there are no inconsistencies in the state and municipal model codes that could result in a conflict. They should work together,” Dimitroff said. “In our municipal code, we made it very clear that a local jurisdiction must take into account the state’s laws concerning siting.”

The purpose of the municipal code is to serve as an example that all 39,000+ municipalities across the United States use as an example of what they can adopt as a code to streamline broadband.

“We hope that municipalities that are looking for a balanced way to streamline deployment of 5G and other telecom technologies would adopt components of it,” Dimitroff said.

The working group was made of representatives of the wireless industry and municipalities. Other city zoning codes were studied, but the working group decided to start from scratch.

“We started by creating a set of guiding principles, which was led by the mayor of City of San Jose, California,” Dimitroff said. “We started off, conceptually, with a series of definitions and a structure that would apply to all technologies, not just 5G, in cities large and small. We developed a code that would be applicable for deployments within the right-of-way and outside the right-of-way.”

The working group went through 35 drafts of its municipal code, which was designed to gain support from both municipalities and the wireless infrastructure industry. No mean feat. In the most controversial areas, such as rates and fees and structure height, the code has open-ended guidance.

“We did not come up with specific dollar amounts or any certain formulas. Instead we had consensus that fees should be enumerated and gave some examples of the rates and fees that could apply,” Dimitroff said. “In another example of a controversial area, the height of the deployment, we left it open-ended, but made it clear that consideration needs to be given at the municipal level to what is an appropriate height of a pole in the public right-of-way.”

The model municipal code did address a big issue for the wireless industry: application processing times. According to the code, within 30 days after receiving an application, a municipality must determine whether or not it is complete, and 60 days later it must approve or deny the application. In response to a denial, an applicant has 30 days to resubmit to avoid an additional application fee.

The state code is written in language that can be codified into law, and the municipal language can be directly turned into city zoning code. Rights of access to existing infrastructure and access to poles, among other things, were also addressed.

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 29 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.  Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: ssmith@aglmediagroup.com.

Dems Force Vote in Senate to Restore Net Neutrality

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The battle for control of the internet is on again.

A petition was filed yesterday in the Senate that will force a vote, May 9, on Sen. Edward Markey’s Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which would “put strong net neutrality rules back on the books.”

“The CRA resolution would fully restore the rules that ensure Americans are not subject to higher prices, slower internet speeds and even blocked sites because the big internet service providers want to pump up their profits,” Markey said at a press conference yesterday.

The CRA has support from 50 senators, including Republican Susan Collins from Maine. It needs one more Republican to vote yes to pass. A number of Republican have shown an interest in supporting the measure, according to Markey.

“The battle to save Net Neutrality is entering the final historic stretch in the Senate,” Markey said. “This is a fight for the most powerful platform for commerce and communications in the history of the planet, the internet.This is a fight for the American economy, which has thrived because of Net Neutrality.”

Introduced on Feb. 27, Senate Joint Resolution 52 “nullifies the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom.” The rule published on February 22, 2018: (1) restores the classification of broadband Internet access service as a lightly-regulated “information service”; (2) reinstates private mobile service classification of mobile broadband Internet access service; (3) requires Internet service providers to disclose information about their network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of service; and (4) eliminates the Internet Conduct Standard and the bright-line rules.”

In a carefully worded statement CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker, opposed the CRA, but seemed to believe some other congressional remedy is needed. “CTIA and our members support the Open Internet,” she said. “We believe a better way forward than the CRA would be to establish permanent bipartisan rules to protect Americans online, while maintaining the regulatory framework that allowed the Internet to flourish.”

The Telecommunications Industry Association also called for bipartisan regulation to keep the internet free and open, as opposed to returning the Net Neutrality.

“Simply passing a CRA will be take us back to a flawed regulatory regime for the internet and perpetuate the unproductive partisan fight that has been raging on this issue,” TIA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Cinnamon Rogers said in a prepared statement. “Those on both sides of the debate over the FCC’s action share widespread agreement that Congress should enact bipartisan legislation that addresses this issue once and for all.”

Companion legislation to overrule the FCC’s order repealing Net Neutrality has been introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, has 160 cosponsors.

Congressman Doyle said, “I think grassroots pressure on Congress to support this bill will continue to grow until the public gets what it wants – an end to special interest efforts to kill Net Neutrality.”

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.  Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: ssmith@aglmediagroup.com.