WASHINGTON March 8th, 2012 – Last month Congress passed one of the more important pieces of legislation regarding the future of wireless access and innovation in our country. The bi partisan legislation has already garnered support from many of the stakeholders and parties involved. Given that we have not covered this legislation up to date, we are now providing a summary of it.
On February 17th Congress passed the “Payroll Tax Bill”, formerly titled the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act of 2012. While the primary focus of this bill is the payroll tax, there are three key provisions in it that are revolutionary for wireless networks in the United States. These provisions were inserted into the bill after the bi partisan wrangling over the payroll tax portion was over, as it became clear that it would pass.
In the first provision, the legislation authorizes an unprecedented release of spectrum through granting the Federal Communications Commission the authority to establish voluntary spectrum auctions for currently licensed, unassigned and government-owned spectrum. The second provision gives the FCC explicit authority to preserve unlicensed TV white spaces and to consolidate white space bands for unlicensed devices. The third provision creates a national interoperable public safety broadband network.
As a consequence of these provisions, there will be significant rectification of the national shortage of spectrum for broadband services. In order to achieve these goals, the legislation creates significant monetary incentives for spectrum rights holders and projects net profit of approximately $15 billion for the U.S. treasury.
In the first part of the auction process the FCC has three years to auction off up to 65MHz of spectrum from a series unassigned or government- owned bands.
The second phase of the auction seeks to auction off portions of spectrum bands currently licensed by the TV broadcasters. The legislation gives the FCC the authority to hold incentive auctions where broadcasters would receive payment in return for voluntarily giving up portions of their spectrum allocation. Through a process called a reverse auction, the FCC will receive bids from broadcasters stating the amount that they would accept for giving up the rights to their spectrum. The reverse auction is designed to keep the broadcaster’s asking price low. The FCC will then take the relinquished spectrum and auction it off in regular auction proceeding.
The law asks the FCC to use all reasonable measures to preserve existing coverage for different stations and prevents them from moving stations from UHF to VHF bands and vice versa. Additionally, the legislation has set aside a one-time $1.75 billion dollar fund to cover reallocation costs for stations that have given up spectrum.
Congress did not restrict the FCC’s ability to enforce conditions of net neutrality on new wireless spectrum licenses, a provision that was part of an earlier version of the legislation. They did, however, prohibit the FCC from setting pre-conditions, aside from the basic qualifications for participating, in the auction process. The law does, nevertheless, give the FCC broad authority to craft auction rules in the public interest. The FCC can make “rules of general applicability, including rules concerning spectrum aggregation that promote competition.” Essentially, this will enable them to place caps on the amount of spectrum any one entity could win.
Preserving Unlicensed Spectrum Uses
Unlike prior versions of the bill, the final version gives the FCC explicit authority to preserve unlicensed TV white spaces. Additionally, the FCC can consolidate white space bands for unlicensed devices to promote the most optimal use and create nationwide guard bands between licenses in order to promote innovation and investment in new wireless services.
The Legislation lays out the plan to construct the nation’s first ever public safety broadband network. The bill creates the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) which will receive $7 billion in auction revenue and licenses to use the “D Block” as well as adjacent spectrum to build a national interoperable broadband network for public safety personnel.
Congress inserted an opt out clause in the public safety portion of the bill for states that demonstrate their own ability to build a public safety network and connect it to the national network. To ensure interoperability of these networks, the bill creates an FCC technical advisory board to come up with interoperability standards. States that choose to build their own public safety networks can apply for grants if they can show that the networks meet the FCC’s interoperability standards.
FCC Spectrum Authority Expires on September 30, Agency Seeks Renewal
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s proposal for increased auction authority would allow the agency to support infrastructure investment.
WASHINGTON, September 26, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel urged Congress last week to extend the agency’s authority to conduct spectrum auctions, which is set to expire this week.
“The FCC has held the authority to hold spectrum auctions for about three decades,” Rosenworcel said during a National Telecommunications and Information Administration spectrum policy symposium on September 19.
“It has been a powerful engine for wireless innovation and economic growth.
In fact, using this authority the FCC has held 100 auctions and raised more than $233 billion in revenue”
September 30 will mark the end of Congress’s fiscal year and the expiry of the FCC’s authority. In July, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed the Spectrum Innovation Act of 2022, H.R. 7624, which includes an extension of the auction authority through to March 2024.
Spectrum and Next Generation 911
The Spectrum Innovation Act was passed in July of this year, which required the FCC to host a spectrum auction to use $10 billion of allocated funds towards Next Generation 911, an Internet Protocol-based system to replace the analog 911 system.
Implementing NG911 in states and counties nationwide will require the coordination of emergency, public safety, and government entities.
Urgent Telecommunications reported last week that the Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition, a coalition of public-safety associations, said that NG911 would not be available for years.
The coalition requested that NG911 funds could be borrowed immediately from the U.S. Treasury, which would be repaid when the proceeds from the 3.1-3.45 GigaHertz (GHz) spectrum auction are made available.
Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chair Takes FCC to Task for Communication With Tribes
‘You need to get a little better about talking to and listening to native communities,” the chairman told the FCC.
WASHINGTON, September 23, 2022 –Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Brian Schatz on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission to consult more regularly with Tribal leaders on the spectrum-licensing processes.
“Some of [the problems voiced native panelists at the roundtable] could simply be avoided by better, more aggressive, more continuous, more humble consultation, and you’re going to save yourselves a ton of headache,” said Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat. “I’m wondering if you need to get a little better about talking to and listening to native communities at every step in the process.”
“Chairman, I think you put that extremely well,” responded Umair Javed, chief council for the office of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
Tyler Iokepa Gomes, deputy to the chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, told the committee of difficulties faced by native Hawaiians in obtaining spectrum licenses. Since the DHHL is a state entity, not a Tribal government, Gomes said, it was forced to compete against two local, native communities in a waiver process. Gomes said that his agency’s competition with the other waiver applicants caused considerable friction in Hawaii’s native community at large.
Low digital literacy is also a problem for some native communities attempted to secure spectrum licenses. “When it comes to technology, a lot of people seem to be scared of it,” said Keith Modglin, director of information technology for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, a federally-recognized Indian Tribe.
Modglin argued that education initiatives to raise digital literacy and explain the intra- and intercommunity benefits of spectrum would benefit his band greatly.
The land of the Mille Lacs Band is a “checkerboard,” meaning that Tribal lands are interspersed with non-tribal lands, said Melanie Benjamin, the tribe’s chief executive officer. According to Benjamin, navigating government’s failure to account for this status caused substantial delays for her tribe.
In addition to improving communication, Schatz called on the FCC to take affirmative actions to ease regulatory burdens on small tribes. “There are some really under resourced native communities, and it shouldn’t be a labyrinth to figure out what they’re eligible for,” he said. “Try to figure out some one-stop shop, some simple way to access the resources that they are eligible for under current law.”
Javed acknowledged a need for the FCC improve its communication with native communities, but he said the FCC is making strides in other areas. “While spectrum is one piece of that puzzle, I think we are making a lot of progress in some of our programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program, updates to the E-Rate program, some of our mapping efforts as well,” he said.
Dave Wright: Shared Relocation Fund Will Make More of Finite Spectrum Resource
‘Wireless connectivity is one of the most vital aspects of our digital infrastructure.’
In order to meet the gaps in broadband connectivity that persist throughout the country, we must have a more comprehensive view for the necessity of all available spectrum – whether shared, licensed or unlicensed – understanding that they are complementary and independently important to our nation’s future.
As we figure out how we will meet the needs of an increasingly wireless world, it is critical that we think collaboratively on how we can free up and share spectrum, working closely and cooperatively with the federal agencies responsible for our nation’s spectrum resources, the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunication and Information Administration.
With recent confirmed leadership appointments in the NTIA and FCC, and renewed focus on collaboration and collegiality between these organizations, there is hope for renewed effectiveness in America’s overall management of our spectrum resources.
From a policy perspective, the OnGo Alliance is working to shed light on the incentives that inherently exist around the way spectrum is made available today. For terrestrial uses, there are two long established methods for making spectrum available – via a licensing process including an auction of the frequencies, or via an unlicensed allocation where spectrum is made available on a license-exempt basis.
Licensed bands have given rise to our cellular connectivity, while unlicensed spectrum has enabled innovations like the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth solutions that we know and depend upon today. The near ubiquitous presence of these technologies speaks to the efficacy of these approaches. The US 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service is the first spectrum access framework that combines aspects of licensed (protected access) and unlicensed (opportunistic access) spectrum within a single, dynamically managed access paradigm.
Congress has increasingly been looking to licensed spectrum auctions as a source of revenue to cover the funding requirements for new programs. And Federal users who are occupying spectrum and then make the spectrum available for auction can take advantage of monies made available through the Spectrum Relocation Fund to cover the costs associated with transitioning their systems.
The SRF is in turn funded based the resulting auction revenues. These are examples of the current incentives in the system which are either directly or indirectly tied to auction revenues of licensed spectrum. These incentives inherently bias the policymaking processes toward licensed spectrum, at the expense of unlicensed and/or opportunistic spectrum like we have in the CBRS General Authorized Access tier.
This bias is not helpful in our quest to provide accessible broadband throughout the nation as unlicensed and GAA are key components in most solutions, from Wi-Fi as the “last meter” connection to a fixed broadband network to GAA’s prominent role in rural fixed wireless offerings.
CBRS is an optimal framework for putting mid-band spectrum to intensive uses for a wide variety of uses. In the only two years since CBRS commercial operations were approved by the FCC, over 225,000 CBRS base stations have been installed nationwide.
Collaboration between cloud players, system integrators, radio vendors and operators has reached critical mass, building a vibrant, self-sustaining ecosystem. CBRS has allowed enterprises and rural farms alike the opportunity to install private 4G and 5G networks that are connecting IoT devices – from factory robots to autonomous farm equipment. School districts, airports, military bases and logistics facilities, factories, hospitals, office buildings, and public libraries are only but a few of the limitless facilities where connectivity has been enabled by CBRS spectrum.
Wireless connectivity is one of the most vital aspects of our digital infrastructure, and we must use all of the available resources in order to make broadband as ubiquitous as any other utility. Our policymaking, and the incentives around it, must account for the fact that all types of spectrum are important – whether licensed, unlicensed or shared – and that it is vital to ensure that there are proper allocations of each type to meet the relentless demand. We must work together to make the most of what we have.
Dave Wright played an instrumental role in the formation of the OnGo Alliance (originally known as the CBRS Alliance), collaborating with other founding members to create a robust multi-stakeholder organization focused on the optimization of LTE and 5G services in the CBRS band. He served as the Alliance’s first Secretary from its launch in August 2016 and was elected as the President of the Alliance in February 2018. He advocates for unlicensed, licensed, and dynamic sharing frameworks – recognizing the vital role that all spectrum management regimes play in our increasingly wireless world. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
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