WASHINGTON, June 24, 2019 — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposed order to permit auction of portions of the 2.5 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band has drawn criticism from many outside the agency, including several members of Congress and even the U.S. Department of Education in the Trump administration.
The draft order would eliminate the educational use requirements for Educational Broadband Services spectrum. It does not reserve a window for educational institutions to acquire licenses.
“The Department strongly encourages the Commission to maintain and modernize the current educational priority of the EBS spectrum by keeping the current eligibility requirements for EBS licenses, modernizing the educational use requirement, and issuing new EBS licenses using local priority filing windows,” said Jim Blew, assistant secretary from the U.S. Department of Education. “These measures will ensure that this valuable public resource can be leveraged by local communities to implement solutions to the ‘homework gap,’ close the digital divide in rural areas, and provide access to affordable broadband.”
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, urged the FCC to “prioritize accredited educational institutions,” calling EBS licensing “one of the few tools the Commission has to close the homework gap.” He expressed concern that the order would “effectively remove educational entities” from the 2.5 GHz band “at a time when broadband for education is more important than ever.”
Advocates were also deeply critical of FCC move
“Eliminating the educational priority for EBS would be disastrous for online learning, 5G deployment, and rural consumers,” said John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition. “The best way to encourage 5G in rural markets is to award licenses to educational institutions that live and work in their communities and whose mission is to serve the needs of students.”
Windhausen pointed out successful examples of EBS broadband deployment from northern Michigan to rural Virginia to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, arguing that the FCC’s order essentially overturns “over 50 years of educational precedent based on exaggerated claims by the commercial carriers.”
Commercial carriers would likely only deploy 5G services in 30 percent of unserved markets whereas educational institutions would serve almost all of them, according to a recent study commissioned by SHLB.
The study concluded that licensing EBS spectrum to schools and tribal nations would reduce the rural homework gap by nearly 30 percent. By contrast, auctioning off the spectrum is expected to reduce the gap by just over 1 percent.
“The draft order contends that auctioning EBS spectrum licensing will encourage private providers to deliver 5G service to unconnected, underserved students living in the most sparsely populated communities. This makes no economic sense,” said Consortium for School Networking CEO Keith Kruger. “If U.S. market forces were sufficient, the connectivity problem would not be so prevalent throughout rural and other remote areas nationwide.”
Kruger said that he was “deeply disappointed” by Pai’s plan, warning that it would be “detrimental” to rural and low-income students.
Tribal window continues, but no allowance for educational institutions
Although the order reserves a priority licensing window for tribal entities, no such allowance has been made for educational institutions. Critics of the order have raised concerns about the impact on rural education and the digital divide.
Conducting an auction instead of issuing licenses via priority windows will not actually expedite 5G deployment because the licensing process will still take years, said Mark Colwell, director of telecommunications strategy at Voqal.
Colwell called the order “unfathomable” and a “radical policy shift that denies schools an opportunity to access spectrum necessary to deploy broadband.”
“The Chairman’s proposal cites dated uses of EBS licenses and the FCC’s two-decade failure to grant new licenses as the basis for handing the spectrum to private providers that have repeatedly failed to address rural America’s homework gap,” said Candice Dodson, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.
The 625 megahertz of spectrum already held by national providers includes 76.5 megahertz of the 2.5 GHz band. Many critics argue that this proves commercial carriers are not actually utilizing this spectrum to close the digital divide.
“There is no sound reason to deprive state education agencies and school districts at least one opportunity to use new EBS licenses to promote broadband innovation, including through public-private partnerships,” Dodson concluded.
The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association put out a statement partially supporting Pai’s agenda, saying that the changes to EBS will “make more efficient and effective use” of the valuable 2.5 GHz band.
Pai’s plan will allow EBS licensees to transfer their licenses to commercial entities and eliminate educational use requirements for the 2.5 GHz spectrum band.
“The flexibility afforded to EBS licensees represents an important breakthrough for this largely fallow band, though we wish the FCC had proposed an auction design better suited to the needs of small providers,” said WISPA President Claude Aiken.
The 2.5 GHz band will be auctioned in a large block of 100 MHz and a small block of 16.5 MHz without bidding credits. WISPA fears that this will not give small providers a legitimate opportunity to acquire spectrum.
(Photo of Ajit Pai by Gage Skidmore, used with permission.)
Google, Reliant On Success of 5G, Says It Wants Government-Funded Test Beds for Open RAN
Company says that the next generation of its products depend on 5G progress.
WASHINGTON, October 20, 2021 — Google made its case for regulators to make room for greater public-private collaboration in the wake of 5G and more research into open radio access network technologies.
Speaking at the FCBA’s “What’s New and Next in Wireless” session on Tuesday, Michael Purdy from Google’s product and policy team emphasized Google’s interest in the emerging 5G landscape, but wants a “collaborative environment” for innovation.
“5G is exciting because of Google’s products depend on 5G,” he said. “[Our] products can’t come to market without it.” Google’s recent product launches include smart-home technologies. Purdy says their products’ benefits are enhanced as 5G is deployed.
Google, like the technology sector at large, is building on the innovation that the “app economy” produced using existing 4G technology and plans to expand their software capabilities with 5G. “The app economy benefited consumers,” Purdy says. “Our lifestyles are going to depend on 5G.” For telehealth, “real time medical advice needs low latency [and] high speeds.”
However, Google hopes for better regulatory conditions during 5G deployment. “We haven’t been as focused on the FCC [for guidance] . . . we want stability to determine spectrum policy.”
Purdy said the company hopes to work collaboratively with government to find solutions for wider 5G deployment. “[We] want to know what position the government takes in creating an open RAN environment.”
The company said it wants government funded-test beds for open RAN, research into development to ensure that “the downside costs are defrayed.” In overcoming these challenges to 5G deployment, Purdy said Google wants the government to foster a “collaborative environment” to develop open RAN. “We don’t want government picking winners and losers in the innovation process” he said.
Purdy added that spectrum sharing between licensed and unlicensed users “can be good for consumers and for industry.”
The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”
Huawei Avoids Network Security Questions, Pushes 5G Innovation
Huawei’s CTO avoided questions about concerns over its network infrastructure security as countries ban its products.
WASHINGTON, October 19, 2021 — Huawei’s chief technology officer did not address questions Monday about the company’s network security practices during a session on how 5G drives economic growth, but said the focus should be on the evolutionary technology instead.
Paul Scanlan, Huawei’s CTO in the carrier business group, focused his presentation at the Economist Impact Innovation@Work conference on the promise of 5G technology and ignored concerns about network safety.
“We can service more customers with 5G” to start bridging the digital divide, he said. The pandemic has given the company an insight into customer behavior to better channel its data traffic needs. “5G performs better for the types of services we use now” he says, such as video streaming and user-generated content.
Scanlan avoided specific questions about his company’s technology and steered the conversation toward providing faster speeds for the health care industry. “Give me some use instances where the company has introduced 5G and helped companies be efficient” asked the moderator, Ludwig Siegele. “I’d like to stick on the health care sector, that’s more topical as you can imagine,” Scanlan responded.
“People are missing [innovation in 5G] because of geopolitical issues around the world,” said Scanlan. “Being able to collect the data and analyze it is where the business benefit lies . . . 5G adoption through the [standardized network] ecosystem is very important and we see this with 5G” for interoperability with other companies and providers.
Huawei’s promotion of their telecommunications products continues as the U.S. maintains national security sanctions against the tech giant. The impact of U.S. sanctions results a drop in sales for the company in 2021. The FCC has also recommended that Huawei’s equipment be listed as “high risk” to U.S. network security. Huawei told the FCC it cannot show the company’s equipment is a threat to U.S. networks.
Huawei’s global head of cybersecurity said this summer that President Joe Biden‘s executive order banning investments in Chinese companies is a “policy misstep” that will not only lose the U.S. a huge market, but will just make the company more self-sufficient.
Celebrating Progress on 5G, the FCC’s Brendan Carr Urges Broadband Mapping
5G crusader Commissioner Brendan Carr voiced pride in the FCC’s focus on 5G over the past four years
WASHINGTON, October 15, 2021–Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr on Friday celebrated U.S. progress in 5G wireless investment and urged the completion of the agency’s broadband mapping initiative.
Speaking a the Free State Foundation gala luncheon, Carr argued that the United States has progressed in its 5G investments and is catching up to foreign networks. ”Years ago we imaged the U.S. would be left behind in 5G,” he said.
He touted his and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts to “remove the red tape.” Enabling the private sector has paid off, he said: The U.S. has jumped 20 places on the country internet speed index, signaling the installation of more robust U.S. 5G networks.
Further, the FCC should complete its broadband mapping process and take caution with the federal money allocated toward broadband deployment, he said, adding that he asked the FCC earlier this year to complete its map by fall 2021.
“There’s planning that can take place when the maps are completed” he said, reflecting a desire from the public and private sector for better, more accurate broadband maps.
He also said that federal money allocated toward the FCC’s efforts to bridge the digital divide should be used carefully, and that money to connect unconnected Americas should not be wasted.
Carr celebrated American investment in 5G progress earlier this year, calling U.S. leadership in 5G “one of the greatest success stories in of the past four years.” In that time, the FCC opened up more than six gigahertz of spectrum for 5G services.
Former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also gave remarks at the event, expressing concern about the federal Made In America policy’s implications on the telecommunications sector.
The Made in America policy refers to President Biden’s push to increase American made content in supply chains. O’Rielly, who left the Commission in December 2020, argued that the policy limits telecommunications companies to the kinds of products that can be made available to consumers.
He also questioned “what it means to be an American manufacturer” because foreign companies are “in essence, being punished by law” for having “investments in the U.S. with U.S. workers as part of a U.S. subsidiary.”
In O’Rielly’s view, the location of the companies headquarters does not impact its national security risk to the U.S.
The remarks by Carr and O’Rielly were at the 15th anniversary celebration for the free-market think tank. Carr said that the foundation has been an “invaluable resource” and has been cited more than 200 times in FCC decisions.
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