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Spectrum

Thomas Hazlett, Former FCC Chief Economist, Seeks to Understand the Law and Economics of Media Regulation

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August 25, 2020 — Thomas Hazlett, an American economist whose research focuses heavily on regulatory measures within the communications sector, was researching cable television when his interest was peaked on broadcasters’ use of the airwaves.

Hazlett, who had earned his Ph.D. in economics from UCLA in 1984, recounted that in the 1980s, “I wrote a chapter for a book about broadcasting that was never published,” describing an ironic start to his otherwise extremely fruitful career in the academic understanding of the communications industry.

“Radio and television are inherently political,” said Hazlett during a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Wednesday, as part of Broadband Breakfast’s “Champions of Broadband” series. “Broadcast has historically been regulated politically.”

Thus began Hazlett’s career at the intersection of broadcasting and wireless, cable and media regulation. He began teaching economics at the University of California at Davis, and has taught at progressively more elite universities, including Wharton, Columbia, George Mason University School of Law. He now runs the Information Economy Project at Clemson University.

In 1991, Hazlett was elevated from academia to the Federal Communications Commission under the George H.W. Bush Administration. In his position as chief economist, he was the main economic advisor to the agency’s chairman.

“You see a lot and learn a lot as chief economist at the FCC,” said Hazlett, in an interview with the Clemson Newsstand. “You witness the good and bad, from the work of dedicated and knowledgeable professionals who try to do the right thing to the structure of a perverse system that stymies their every attempt to advance the radio spectrum, so that it serves the public’s best interests.”

His position at the FCC drove Hazlett to focus more directly about the intersections of communications and economics.

Following his time as chief economist to the FCC, Hazlett became a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute from 1998 to 2001, and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute from 2001 to 2005.

Eight years after founding the Information Economy Project and teaching as a professor of law and economics at George Mason University, Hazlett in 2013 moved the research center to Clemson University in South Carolina.

Regulation of the radio spectrum has little to do with ‘chaos on the airwaves’

Throughout his years working in the communications sector, Hazlett authored several books touching on communications regulation, on the subjects of cable, municipal broadband, the internet, and more.

Hazlett is particularly interested in the regulation of spectrum. He most recently released a book in May 2017, entitled The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone.

Hazlett pins the roots of current spectrum regulation issues to regulations established by The Radio Act of 1927, the brainchild of Herbert Hoover, which he finds limits innovation and consumers’ spectrum rights.

“The interpretation of the regulatory structure had little to do with chaos on the airwaves,” said Hazlett, who argues the move was the result of pressure by incumbent radio stations and key policy makers aiming to foreclose competitive entry.

In the book, Hazlett critiques the idea that government control of spectrum was inevitable. He further disregards the idea that the government does a good job regulating the spectrum market.

Instead, Hazlett argues that outdated regulation has stymied the advancement of wireless communication through the enforcement of Hoover-era regulations, hindered by political interests.

“Despite wireless technology’s staggering growth, the bygone-era regulations have led to underutilized frequency space, which has far-reaching consequences,” said Hazlett.

Today, the system Hazlett described as “anti-consumer and anti-competitive,” has begun to loosen up.

“Wireless has taken off,” said Hazlett, “part of this is due to relaxation of some regulatory rules.”

Hazlett believes going forward, regulators should find much better ways to allocate spectrum, especially as the FCC is set to hold the largest auction of unlicensed spectrum in history in December, to meet increased spectrum demands for Wi-Fi.

“Let the consumers decide the market,” argued Hazlett, saying “that’s what we need to move towards, to getting spectrum to its highest uses.”

As of yet, Hazlett believes American spectrum is “all tied up in a regulatory proceeding.”

Spectrum

House Democrats Introduce Bill to Free Up Mid-Band Spectrum for Auction, Flexible Use

The bill would ensure adequate mid-band spectrum is available for commercial use to expand broadband availability.

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Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-California.

WASHINGTON, September 30, 2021 – Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, and Doris Matsui, D-California, have introduced a bill that would free up new airwaves for wireless broadband use by the public, which the representatives claim would mean faster speeds and more responsive networks.

The Spectrum Innovation Act, unveiled Wednesday and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on which Doyle is the chairman, will “make available additional frequencies in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band for non-Federal use, shared Federal and non-Federal use, or a combination thereof, and for other purposes.”

The bill comes after Congressman Doyle told Broadband Breakfast last month that spectrum provisions in the Senate-passed infrastructure bill – which is slated to be voted on in the House on Thursday – deviated from the “traditional process” and that he planned to “look at that.”

Among the spectrum rules outlined in the infrastructure bill is the ability of federal officials to seek out spectrum frequencies for federal use, and to shovel money from the Spectrum Relocation Fund toward to the Defense Department for the “purpose of research and development, engineering studies, economic analysis, activities with respect to systems, or other planning activities.”

The affected spectrum in this case would be the 3.1 to 3.45 GigaHertz (GHz) band, a key mid-band series of radio frequencies that includes some federal users, that is the subject of this new bill.

“In addition to up to 200 megahertz of spectrum auctioned for mobile broadband, this bill will help usher in new, innovative wireless uses through opportunistic and other flexible spectrum uses,” Congressman Doyle said.

“For the United States to remain the pacesetter in wireless broadband, we must continue to ensure innovators have a reliable spectrum pipeline,” said congresswoman Matsui in a press release Wednesday.

“We stand at a pivotal moment in the development and deployment of next generation networks; the Spectrum Innovation Act will unleash the economic potential of this valuable mid-band spectrum and give us the tools necessary to meet the communications challenges of tomorrow,” she added.

The bill would require that an investigation be launched into even more frequencies within the bandwidth that could potentially be freed up and sold at auction.

A number of industry associations and public advocacy groups praised the bill.

“The Spectrum Innovation Act of 2021 will greatly benefit consumers by making a very large band of prime spectrum available to help fuel the world’s most robust 5G wireless ecosystem,” said Public Knowledge and the Open Technology Institute at New America in a joint statement.

“We commend Chairman Doyle and Representative Matsui for taking a holistic approach that recognizes the value of making spectrum available both by auction and through shared use by smaller broadband providers, schools, critical infrastructure and literally thousands of individual enterprises on a local basis. This is the policy framework for mid-band spectrum that is most likely to spur 5G competition and innovation, while also ensuring that critical military radar systems can continue to use the band without undue risk of harmful interference.”

The NCTA — Internet and Television Association and the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association also came out to voice support for the bill.

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Spectrum

Dish Requests Temporary Authority to Use 600 MegaHertz Band Licenses for 5G Test in Las Vegas and Denver

Dish said it needs non-contiguous 600 MHz band licenses to test open-RAN 5G network in two markets.

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Dish President and CEO Erik Carlson

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2021 – Dish Network is asking the Federal Communications Commission to grant it a temporary license to use 600 MegaHertz (MHz) spectrum band licenses owned by another licensee for 5G tests in Las Vegas and Denver.

Dish said in a Wednesday submission to the FCC that Bluewater Wireless II, the owner of the 600 MHz spectrum band in question, has consented to allow Dish to use the spectrum under a regime called a special temporary authority.

Dish said it requires Bluewater’s spectrum licenses in the two cities to test and validate equipment for its 5G broadband network, using open radio access network technologies. The company said it needs the licenses to test carrier aggregation, where using its own licenses would be insufficient, because the two spectrum blocks cannot be contiguous.

“DISH anticipates needing more low-band spectrum in some markets to meet customer demand in the future,” the company said in its submission. “When and if additional 600 MHz spectrum becomes available, either when the Commission auctions unassigned spectrum or through future partnerships, DISH plans to use carrier aggregation at the market level to combine multiple 600 MHz assets to add capacity and improve data throughput speeds.”

“Grant of this STA will deliver important public interest benefits,” the company added. “In particular, the STA will enable DISH to put to use certain spectrum licensed to Bluewater that is not yet deployed.”

The test will end no later than the end of this year and the spectrum will only be used for testing and not for commercial purposes, Bluewater added in a letter to the FCC consenting to the arrangement.

The Denver-based company said it completed its first fully open RAN-compliant network communication in December 2020.

Dish announced that it was taking sign-ups for its 5G service in June, with the first city to get its so-called Project Gene5is being Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dish secured mobile wireless assets in a deal that allowed T-Mobile to absorb Sprint and entered the market in 2020 with the purchase of Boost Mobile and Ting Mobile. Dish has been widely expected to deliver wireless service that would add competition back in after the acquisition of Sprint.

The company announced this month that it is also purchasing Gen Mobile, a pre-paid and low-cost mobile service company, through its Boost brand.

Earlier this year, Boost bundled its K Health telehealth service in with its mobile service.

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Spectrum

SpaceX, Engineers Clash over Whether 12 GigaHertz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Operators

Competing submissions to the FCC show the friction over valuable mid-band spectrum.

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SpaceX head Elon Musk

August 10, 2021 – Research commissioned by RS Access showing the mid-band 12 GHz spectrum, a band used by satellite service providers, can be shared with 5G operations has elicited a scathing rebuke by SpaceX — and the engineering firm behind the study is responding in kind.

The FCC is currently studying the possible sharing of the band between satellite providers and mobile wireless carriers for 5G. Broadband Breakfast held a panel discussion in July, which included arguments for and against the spectrum’s flexible use. RS Access’ V. Noah Campbell mentioned the technical study in question during the session, by RKF Engineering Solutions, LLC.

In a filing to the Federal Communications Commission last week, however, SpaceX alleges RKF’s technical study is a “fatally flawed” analysis that washes over the interference consequences that will allegedly happen if the spectrum is shared with 5G operations.

To address interference concerns, the engineering study drew three main conclusions: low-earth orbit satellite user terminals, which SpaceX’s Starlink fleet uses, can reject 5G signals; technology used by mobile wireless networks will direct energy toward handsets, not satellite terminals; and 5G networks will be used largely in higher population areas, whereas Starlink will focus on low-density, largely rural, areas. It also said that without coordination, interference possibilities will affect less than one percent of next-generation satellite operator terminals.

But SpaceX said these conclusions assume that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas and limit the next-generation satellite service providers from operating in those areas. The company said while Starlink is “designed to optimize for rural areas initially, it will provide service in urban areas.” It also claims that there will be interference suffered by the satellite terminals on the ground to cause disruptions in service, and ultimately, thousands of customers could be impacted.

SpaceX notes that the $900 million it won in December from the FCC’s $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund – which is currently being reassessed due to complaints of possible overbuilding – backs the fact that urban coverage is part of its agenda.

The company said it has over half a million back orders in its first six months of beta testing its Starlink service with only a third of its LEO fleet deployed (it has over 1,400 satellites launched). It also said it has applied to increase the number of licensed user terminals to 5 million.

RKF engineering firm responds

But RKF said in a filing to the FCC on August 9 that SpaceX misread the study to “find harmful interference where none may exist.” It said the study finds that a 5G network with zero coordination among users of the spectrum would impact fewer than one percent of next-generation satellite terminals. With coordination, such possible interference incidences would be reduced even further, it adds.

RKF, founded in 2001 and known by the last name initials of its founders Phil Rubin, Ted Kaplan, and Jeff Freedman, said this is the only engineering study of its kind in the FCC docket and no company has refuted it.

Other complaints in the Tuesday filing include RKF’s claim that its study did not say that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas, noting that the study surveyed less populated areas and found that demand is greatest in more densely populated areas. It also said its study does not preclude SpaceX from operating in any part of the country. It added that SpaceX operations in urban areas with 5G networks is “still readily achievable.”

“SpaceX’s inexplicable response to our rigorous, data-driven engineering study on coexistence in the 12 GHz band is so egregiously inaccurate that we as a firm felt it needed a direct response,” David Marshack, chief operating officer of RKF, said in a statement to Broadband Breakfast.

“Though our firm has often been called on to perform analyses in Commission proceedings, rarely has our firm engaged directly in the FCC docket on its own behalf. But in multiple Commission filings, SpaceX has impugned RKF’s integrity with baseless allegations and brazen misrepresentations that have made engaging on the record necessary.

“The engineering analysis clearly shows that coexistence between satellite and terrestrial 5G in the 12 GHz band is highly feasible,” the statement added. “Any claim to the contrary is a misunderstanding of our findings which show that a 5G network with zero coordination would impact fewer than one percent of NGSO terminals.”

Dish Network — the beneficiary of mobile wireless assets from the T-Mobile-Sprint merger and which is using said assets to develop its 5G network – said in a January filing that it hopes the commission would find a way to open the band for 5G use.

Since the other satellite-using C-band spectrum has already concluded its auction, the supply of critical mid-band spectrum for 5G is diminishing. Last month, RS Access filed a study by Roberson and Associates with the FCC claiming that the 12 GHz spectrum is “highly favorable for 5G, resembles lower-mid band frequencies, and can rapidly accelerate 5G deployment nationwide.”

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