WASHINGTON, June 18, 2019 — The Federal Communications Commission will vote in July on whether or not to auction off unused portions of the 2.5 GigaHertz (GHz) spectrum band to advance the deployment of 5G wireless networks.
Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that the order would “modernize an outdated regulatory regime” and “give incumbent users more flexibility” by eliminating certain eligibility requirements and other regulations.
“Making this valuable mid-band spectrum available for new mobile services will allow for more efficient and effective use of these airwaves and will advance U.S. leadership in 5G,” he said.
Before auctioning off the spectrum for commercial use, the order will establish a local priority filing window for rural tribal nations to access the spectrum before allowing commercial entities to bid. Senior FCC officials said that the length of the tribal filing window has yet to be decided.
Speaking at a June 11 briefing on the 2.5 GHz band, MuralNet CEO Mariel Triggs emphasized the importance of having a sufficiently long tribal window, pointing out the need to accommodate tribal councils that only meet once per month.
Under this proposal, there will not be a local priority window for educational institutions. The FCC has not opened a licensing window for educators since 1995 and has not assigned over 4,000 Educational Broadband Services licenses.
The proposal also repeals the educational use requirement, going against the suggestion of a June 7 letter from the U.S. Department of Education, which said that the FCC should maintain the requirement.
Repealing the educational use requirement will allow the spectrum to be put to the best and most efficient use, argued senior FCC officials, who added that EBS licenses have not been used effectively in the past.
However, the past six temporary waivers granted to schools by the FCC have resulted in full build-out in every case, according Mobile Beacon Executive Director Katherine Messier, who also spoke on the June 11 panel.
(Photo of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai by Gage Skidmore.)