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FCC Proposes 100 Megahertz Mid-Band Spectrum, NTCA on 800 Numbers, WISPA’s 10 Takeaways from Auction

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Photo of WISPA CEO Claude Aiken from October 2019 by Drew Clark

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shared his plan Tuesday (PDF) to make the 3.45-3.55 GigaHertz (GHz) band available for commercial use in the United States, setting aside 100 megahertz for commercial 5G use.

“With this 3.45 GHz band proposal, the upcoming C-band auction of 280 megahertz of spectrum, and the recently completed auction for Priority Access Licenses in the 3.5 GHz band, the Commission is on track to make a wide swath of 530 megahertz of continuous mid-band spectrum available for 5G,” said Pai, who heads the Federal Communications Commission.

This plan would also work to fulfill congress’s MOBILE NOW Act, which calls for the agency to “make new spectrum available for flexible use,” and work with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to determine the feasibility of this band’s commercial use.

The law also calls for new rules “to enable commercial use and coordination between federal and non-federal users.”

The White House and Defense Department on August 10 announced operations in the band could make space for commercial 5G operations.

NTCA discusses intercarrier compensation for 800 numbers

The rural broadband association NTCA raised concerns to the FCC (PDF) about the intercarrier compensation rates associated with 800 numbers.

The association is concerned about additional costs on rural local exchange carriers.

NTCA therefore urged the FCC “to make explicit in any upcoming order with respect to 8YY traffic that, in the absence of mutual agreement, no party may force a change to any RLEC’s existing interconnection points that define financial responsibility for interconnection and transport of calls pursuant to any tariff, contract, or other arrangement even if the intercarrier compensation rates applicable under such vehicles may be altered by a Commission order.”

If the FCC did decide to make changes to interconnection responsibilities, reductions in access revenues would follow.

WISPA’s 10 takeaways from CBRS auction

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association touted its members success in winning more than 3600 license bids in the Federal Communication Commission’s Auction 105, the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. Claude Aiken, CEO of WISPA, detailed his 10 lessons learned for fixed wireless broadband providers and their communities: 

  1. Size matters. WISPA’s success challenges the idea that the most efficient way to auction-off limited spectrum is through large geographic license areas.
  2. Competition matters. Everyone benefits from competition in spectrum licenses. The US Treasury makes more money and the diversity of applicants result in innovation. “The FCC should work to include licenses that can better accommodate small innovators in all its future auctions.”
  3. Consumers win.  More useable spectrum equals more consumer benefits.
  4. The auction solidifies the “wireless play” as a model for broadband deployment. To successfully connect Americans with broadband infrastructure, all the resources in the broadband sector need to be used.
  5. The CBRS model of spectrum sharing – with some form of SAS or AFC – is not going away.  The strength of the bids give confirm that the system works. “With little or no ‘greenfield,’ mid-band spectrum available, the CBRS auction model proves new spectrum can be ‘found’ and then better utilized via a more diverse range of actors than previously allowed.”
  6. Rural areas win.  91% of all licenses sold were in rural areas, showing the significant interest and investment in rural America. Almost 70 members of WISPA won bids for over 3600 licenses in over than 1350 counties, which represented over 17% of all the licenses won.  Considering the fixed wireless industry’s reliance on Part 15 unlicensed spectrum to serve its customers, the $100.4 million they spent in Auction 105 was unprecedented.
  7. The spectrum for which WISPs placed winning bids will be rapidly used to serve rural communities in the digital divide. This will improve current services by combining with access to 80 MHz of GAA spectrum and working to open new high-speed services for areas that did not have them before.
  8. WISPs are maturing, evolving, and growing through reduced regulation, better access to capital, and aggressive market entry.  In areas with good infrastructure available like CBRS spectrum, WISPs have taken advantage of opportunities to serve areas that legacy providers rate “too unprofitable to their bottom line.”
  9. WISPs (and their communities) are not waiting for Big Mobile to deploy 5G.  They’re growing broadband where it’s wanted and needed right now. CBRS and good fixed wireless spectrum in general that growth. It would benefit Policymakers to identify and free-up spectrum for those who are working to bridge the digital divide.
  10. The $4.5 billion investment in the 70 MHz of the licensed portion of the CBRS band will aid growth of the GAA spectrum, which will invite the ecosystem to craft solutions to make the entire 150 MHz of the CBRS band useable for licensed and license-by-rule players. “This success should encourage the FCC to allocate the neighboring 3.45 – 3.55 GHz with a similar sharing model and auction process.”

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.

Broadband Roundup

Biden Administration Tour, NTIA Funding Internet for Two Tribal Nations, Ting Partnership in California

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will visit a fiber manufacturer in North Carolina.

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Photo of Joe Biden from 2021

March 27, 2023 President Joe Biden and cabinet members will begin an “Investing in America” tour on Tuesday in Durham, North Carolina, which will highlight the president’s agenda for items including the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the American Rescue Plan Act, according to a White House brief on Friday.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo will travel to North Carolina to visit manufacturers producing fiber optic cable, while Biden will visit Wolfspeed in Durham, North Carolina, a semiconductor manufacturer, which recently announced a $5 billion investment to build the facility and create 1,800 new jobs in the state.

The new laws are “unleashing a manufacturing boom, helping rebuild our infrastructure and bring back supply chains, lowering costs for hardworking families, and creating jobs that don’t require a four-year degree across the country,” according to the brief.

Before the president starts the tour, the White House “will hold a cabinet meeting on Monday, where members from across the administration will come together to discuss how their agencies are working together to implement the president’s agenda to expand economic opportunities across the country,” the brief added.

In Biden’s the State of the Union address in February, he emphasized the importance of ”made in America” rules, especially for fiber optic cables.

NTIA announces $25.7 million to fund two tribal nations

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Thursday it has awarded two grants totaling more than $25.7 million to two tribal nations for internet and broadband, according to a press release.

As part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota will receive $11.4 million fund and the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico will receive $14. 3 million.

“Tribal communities often face high barriers to Internet adoption that hinder their ability to thrive in the modern digital economy,” said NTIA head Alan Davidson in the release. “Today’s grants to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Pueblo of Acoma will reduce these barriers for more than 1,500 Tribal households, connecting them to economic and educational opportunities that many of us take for granted.”

The Federal Communications Commission partnered with the Institute of Museum and Library Services last February to raise awareness about the agency’s E-Rate subsidy program, which is federal program used to supply libraries with funding for internet infrastructure and has come under fire for a lack of expansion to tribal communities.

Ting partners to bring fiber to California, Arizona areas

Fiber internet provider Ting, a division of Tucows, announced on Thursday it will partnership with Ubiquity, a company that invests and manage digital communications infrastructure, to bring fiber internet to Carlsbad, California and Mesa, Arizona, according to a Tucows press release.

“Our partnership with Ubiquity allows us to connect more residents and businesses to fiber, faster, while being efficient with construction resources,” said Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows and Ting, in the release. “We’re excited to work with a team that shares our vision of what future-proofed communities can look like now, and into the future.”

Ubiquity began construction of the network in early 2023 in both Carlsbad, California and Mesa, Arizona. The tenant partnership between these two internet companies “is expected to result in up to 150,000 available fiber addresses across both markets over the build term”, according to the Tucows’s release.

The companies also partnered in 2019 to build in the markets of Solana Beach and Encinitas of Southern California.

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Broadband Roundup

CHIPS Act Rules Against China, Idaho State Broadband Funds, FCC Combats Hidden Fees

Commerce Department’s new proposal would limit CHIPS Act recipients from investing in other countries

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Photo of Brad Little from his website

March 23, 2023 – The Department of Commerce released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to limit recipients of the CHIPS and Science Act from investing in the expansion of semiconductor manufacturing in foreign countries of concern such as People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to Commerce department press release Tuesday.

“The innovation and technology funded in the CHIPS Act is how we plan to expand the technological and national security advantages of America and our allies; these guardrails will help ensure we stay ahead of adversaries for decades to come,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“CHIPS for America is fundamentally a national security initiative and these guardrails will help ensure malign actors do not have access to the cutting-edge technology that can be used against America and our allies.”

In addition to the national security guardrails the CHIPS and Science Act already included, these new proposed rules would prohibit significant transactions for leading-edge and advanced facilities in foreign countries of concern for 10 years from the date of award; limit the expansion of existing legacy facilities and prohibit recipients from adding new production lines or expanding a facility’s production capacity beyond 10 percent; classify semiconductors as critical to national security; and impose restrictions on joint research and technology licensing efforts with foreign entities of concern.

The Commerce Department is now seeking comments for 60 days.

Idaho invests $125 million in state funds for broadband deployment

Idaho on Monday passed legislation to spend $125 million in state funds on broadband deployments as a part of it’s “Idaho First” plan, according to a statement from the governor’s office. The state plans to spend an additional $100 million is nearing legislative approval.

“In a data-driven society, connectivity is imperative for a strong economy. Improved broadband infrastructure means both urban and rural Idaho will be connected and well-positioned to attract business and enhance our citizens’ quality of life,” said Idaho Gov. Brad Little.

“I appreciate my legislative partners for prioritizing these new ‘Idaho First’ investments in broadband expansion,” said Little. “Together, we are ensuring a kid in Pierce can learn online with a kid from Pocatello and a senior citizen in Challis can connect to her doctor in Chubbuck. This is about all about connecting Idaho and improving lives.”

Both of these two states could receive millions more in broadband funding through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program.

Cable and broadcast satellite providers must offer customers what they charge and why they charge

A new proposal introduced by Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel would require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite providers to specify their prices for video programming service in both their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills, so that customers will not be confused, according to a Wednesday press release.

According to the proposal, cable and DBS providers need to include separate lines on each payment bill and promotional material for broadcast retransmission consent, regional sports programming, and fees for other programs that customers might sign up but without clear understanding.

“Consumers deserve to know what exactly they are paying for when they sign up for a cable or broadcast satellite subscription. No one likes surprises on their bill, especially families on tight budgets,” Rosenworcel said in the statement.

“We’re working to make it so the advertised price for a service is the price you pay when your bill arrives and isn’t littered with anything that resembles junk fees.”

This proposal of consumer protection is “latest in the Commission’s price transparency and increased competitiveness initiatives” which also includes the nation’s first Broadband Nutrition Label, that requires broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to compare broadband service shop and choose for their own, according to the press release.

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Broadband Roundup

Space Bills Get Markup, Cybersecurity Reserve Bills Introduced, Gigabit Center Opens in Crown Heights, NY

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act are scheduled for mark-up on Thursday.

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Photo of Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2015 by Gage Skidmore

March 23, 2023 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a mark-up meeting on Thursday to consider pieces of legislation that will “keep America at the forefront of next-generation communications technology,” according to a press release.

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act introduced by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. in December last year will be among those going through the line-by-line process on Thursday.

The Secure Space Act prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from issuing satellite licenses or other related authorizations to untrusted actors, based on the framework adopted in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act clarifies FCC authority with the goal of promoting responsible use of space, incentivizing investment and innovation, and advancing U.S. leadership.

“America is leading the way in next-generation satellite technologies, which are contributing to a revolution in the communications marketplace,” the representatives said in a statement. “To make sure the U.S. – not China – continues to lead this global industry, we must streamline our regulatory processes to unleash innovation while also ensuring our laws fully protect the American public.”

Bills to ensure cybersecurity reserves in government introduced

Two bills introduced Tuesday by Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would establish pilot programs that would hire civilian cybersecurity personnel in reserve to “ensure the U.S. government has the talent needed to defeat, deter, or respond to malicious cyber activity, especially at times of greatest need.”

The bills, some versions of which were previously introduced but did not pass, would establish the Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve pilot programs within the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Cybersecurity threats targeting the United States continue to grow in scale and scope, demonstrating the urgent need for robust civilian cyber reserves capable of addressing these threats and protecting our nation,”  Rosen said in a press release on Tuesday“Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure the U.S. government can leverage existing cybersecurity talent from the private sector to help our nation deter and swiftly respond to cyberattacks.”

The bills comes at a time when federal agencies are “experiencing a growing shortage of cybersecurity talent,” the release said.

“As the cyber domain continues to expand in size and complexity, so should our cyber workforce,” Blackburn said. “By creating a reserve corps similar to our National Guard or Army Reserve, we can ensure the U.S. has qualified, capable, and service-oriented American talent that is necessary to address cyber vulnerabilities and keep our nation secure.”

Gigabit Center to provide free internet to students in Crown Heights, NY

The Brooklyn Gigabit Center, which will provide free internet resources for students, opened in Crown Heights, New York on Wednesday.

The center will provide free high-speed Wi-Fi, technology, education and school supplies to Crown Height, New York, an area where 36 percent of households lack broadband, according to the press release.

The center opened with a press conference hosted by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, LinkNYC, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation, digital infrastructure company ZenFi Networks, and tech education non-profit Digital Girl, according to a ZenFi Networks press release.

ZenFi Networks has previously opened centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens to help the local communities to learn and adopt to modern technologies.

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