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As Next Year’s C-Band Auction Looms, FCC Officials Reflect on Innovation in Spectrum Auctions



Photo of FCC Senior Economic Adviser Evan Kwerel by Masha Abarinova

WASHINGTON, November 12, 2019 – Increased attention surrounding next June’s impending C-Band spectrum auction was the occasion for legal experts to address the ways in which the Federal Communications Commission has improved its auction process – as well as how clients can improve communication during the bidding process.

Innovation in auctions is key as spectrum policy becomes more complex, said FCC Office of Economics and Analytics Acting Chief Giulia McHenry at a FCBA Wireless Telecommunications Committee event Tuesday. Auctions are no longer limited to the wireless space, she said, as they encompass radio airwaves, television as well as the Universal Service Fund.

The reality is that there is no more greenfield spectrum available, McHenry said. There needs to be a way to share spectrum with existing users as the number of incumbents increase. Satellite companies particularly, she said, are incumbents that use a great amount of current mid-band spectrum.

The FCC retains four priorities with future spectrum proceedings, McHenry added. Make significant spectrum available for 5G wireless services, deploy it quickly, provide auction revenue for the U.S. Treasury and make sure that users get the amount of spectrum that they need.

Looking back at how the agency has transformed its auction process, said FCC Office of Economic Advancement and Analytics Auctions Division Chief Margaret Weiner, is beneficial for future endeavors. Over the years, physical bidding seminars have been replaced with online tutorials and an online application process for bidders.

Electronic auction participation used to be much more costly, Weiner said. The relationship between the bidding system and the bidding interface has changed dramatically. For example, online adaptation has mitigated the frequencies of “fat-finger” bids, where participants place a bid that was higher than intended.

Another key change, she added, is how the FCC determines eligible entities for auctions. Not only is participation offered at a license-by-license basis, but the agency also created credit caps to better support small business and avoid unjust enrichment of large incumbents.

As accessible as the FCC has made auction processes, said Wilkinson Barker Knauer Partner Jonathan Cohen, clients and lawyers involved need to better understand auction rules. This is especially important if they are unaware of certain regulations, such as buildout requirements and license renewal expectancy.

One of the most important auction aspects to understand, Cohen said, is knowing what behavior constitutes as prohibited communication. Industry members don’t necessarily agree to these regulations, he said, however the FCC can impose meaningful penalties to those that fail to comply.

Bigger companies are more at risk to fail compliance, Cohen continued, because they tend to have a large volume of business units. These units are more likely to discuss auction proceedings internally rather than with the FCC auction staff.

To avoid compliance problems, Cohen suggested some ways that auction participants can improve the system. A built-in redundancy system with more than one authorized bidder, he said, can help expedite the process and ensure bidders don’t miss their rounds.

Overall, said Cohen, clients should understand the limitations of the auction staff and avoid asking them questions that they cannot answer. Lawyers in turn should avoid sharing bids or bidding strategies if they represent multiple clients in the same auction, for the sake of competition.


Cable Group NCTA Says Deny Exclusive Multitenant Access, But Not Wiring, Agreements

NCTA said the FCC should deny exclusive access to these buildings, but not exclusive wiring agreements.



Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – The internet and television association NCTA is suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission deny all broadband providers exclusive access to multitenant buildings, but to continue allowing exclusive wiring agreements.

On Tuesday, the FCC opened a new round of comments into its examination of competitive broadband options for residents of apartments, multi-tenant and office buildings.

In a Tuesday ex parte notice to the commission, which follows a formal meeting with agency staff on September 2, the NCTA said the record shows that deployment, competition, and consumer choice in multiple tenant environments “are strong,” and that the FCC can “promote even greater deployment and competition by prohibiting not just cable operators, other covered [multiple video programming distributors], and telecommunications carriers, but all broadband providers from entering into MTE exclusive access agreements.

The organization, whose member companies include Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, also said it should continue to allow providers to enter into exclusive wiring agreements with MTE owners. Wiring just means that the provider can lay down its cables, like fiber, to connect residents.

“Exclusive wiring agreements do not deny new entrants access to MTEs. Rather, exclusive wiring agreements are pro-competitive and help ensure that state-of-the-art wiring will be deployed in MTEs to the benefit of consumers.”

The NCTA also told the FCC that there would be technical problems with simultaneous sharing of building wires by different providers and vouched for exclusive marketing arrangements, according to the notice.

The FCC’s new round of comments comes after a bill, introduced on July 30 by Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-New York, outlined plans to address exclusivity agreements between residential units and service providers, which sees providers lock out other carriers from buildings and leaving residents with only one option for internet.

Reached for comment on the filing, a spokesman for NCTA said they had nothing to add to the filing, which was signed by Mary Beth Murphy, deputy general counsel to the cable organization.

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Hytera’s Inclusion on FCC’s National Security Blacklist ‘Absurd,’ Client Says

Diversified Communications Group said the FCC flubbed on adding Hytera to blacklist.



Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – A client of a company that has been included in a list of companies the Federal Communications Commission said pose threats to the security of the country’s networks is asking the agency to reconsider including the company.

In a letter to the commission on Tuesday, Diversified Communications Group, which installs and distributes two-way radio communications devices to large companies, said the inclusion of Hytera Communications Corporation, a Chinese manufacturer of radio equipment, on a list of national security threats is “absurd” because the hardware involved is not connected to the internet and “does not transmit any sensitive or proprietary data.

“It seems that Hytera has been lumped in with other Chinese companies on the Covered List simply because they happen to manufacture electronics in the same country,” Diversified’s CEO Ryan Holte said in the letter, adding Hytera’s products have helped Diversified’s business thrive.

“This is a wrong that should be righted. Hytera is not a national security risk. They are an essential business partner to radio companies throughout the U.S.,” the CEO added.

In March, the FCC announced that it had designated Hytera among other Chinese businesses with alleged links to the Communist government. Others included Huawei, ZTE, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology.

List among a number of restrictions on Chinese companies

This list of companies was created in accordance with the Secure Networks Act, and the FCC indicated that it would continue to add companies to the list if they are deemed to “pose an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons.”

Last month, the Senate commerce committee passed through legislation that would compel the FCC to no longer issue new equipment licenses to China-backed companies.

Last year the U.S. government took steps to ensure that federal agencies could not purchase goods or services from the aforementioned companies, and had previously added them to an economic blacklist.

In July, the FCC voted in favor of putting in place measures that would require U.S. carriers to rip and replace equipment by these alleged threat companies.

The Biden administration has been making moves to isolate alleged Chinese-linked threats to the country’s networks. In June, the White House signed an executive order limiting investments in predominantly Chinese companies that it said poses a threat to national security.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Says 5 Million Households Now Enrolled in Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The $3.2 billion program provides broadband and device subsidies to eligible low-income households.



Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 30, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday that five million households have enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

The $3.2-billion program, which launched in May, provides a broadband subsidy of $50 per month to eligible low-income households and $75 per month for those living on native tribal lands, as well as a one-time reimbursement on a device. Over 1160 providers are participating, the FCC said, who are reimbursed the cost to provide the discounted services.

The agency has been updating the public on the number of participating households for the program. In June, the program was at just over three million and had passed four million last month. The program was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“Enrolling five million households into the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in a little over three months is no small feat,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of nearly 30,000 individuals and organizations who signed up as volunteer outreach partners.”

Rosenworcel added that conversations with partners and the FCC’s analysis shows the need for “more granular data” to bring these opportunities to more eligible families.

The program’s strong demand was seen as far back as March.

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