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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

Pole Replacement Benefits Owners, ViaSat-3 Completes Final Satellite Test, Wireless Broadband Alliance New Member

INCOMPAS pushed FCC on acknowledging that pole owners are beneficiaries of pole replacements.

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BAI Communications Chief Technology Officer Brendan O'Reilly, via Twitter

November 28, 2022 – Industry trade group INCOMPAS said Monday in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission that the agency should presume that pole owners benefit from a replacement of their poles.

“The Commission should first modify its rules to include a presumption that pole owners receive a direct benefit when a pole replacement is required to accommodate a new attachment,” INCOMPAS representatives told the agency on Nov 22, according to a post-meeting letter released Friday.

The organization added that current practices on pole access are unreasonable because it includes excessive delays and denials for pole access.

The FCC is currently conducting a proceeding in which it is looking at whether the cost to replace a pole should be shared by pole the owner and the third-party attacher, which requests to put its equipment on the pole to expand broadband infrastructure. Pole attachers argue that it isn’t fair that they have to foot the entire bill of a pole replacement when the owner derives a benefit from a new pole.

But pole owners, in submissions to the agency, have said that replacements are “insignificant” for utilities in comparison to the benefit to attachers.

ViaSat-3 satellite in final phase

Satellite communications company Viasat Inc. said Monday its ViaSat-3 Americas satellite passed its final flight phase for configuration, which is expected to deliver communications network in on the continent.

The satellite test showed the satellite performs as expected to withstand environmental stresses, the company announced.

“Completion of FIST is a significant milestone as we move towards spacecraft delivery and launch,” said Ryan Reid, president of Boeing, which is providing the launch vehicle.

ViaSat-3 will be a global satellite constellation with three high-capacity Ka-band satellites that will bring low-cost connectivity to the global network, the company said.

Wireless Broadband Alliance has new board member

BAI Communications said Monday that the company’s chief technology officer Brendan O’Reilly was elected to the board of directors of the Wireless Broadband Alliance for a two-year term set to start on January 1.

BAI designs and operates communications networks. WBA enables collaboration with service providers, technology companies, regulators and organizations to connect people to Wi-Fi services. BAI and WBA share a goal to connect people with accessible wireless connectivity, a press release said.

“I see a lot of opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas with other respected WBA members to accelerate the delivery of advanced 5G technologies and the adoption of NextGen Wi-Fi,” O’Reilly said. “The diversity of this network is what helps taking wireless technologies forward.”

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Broadband Roundup

NTIA Pushes FTC on Privacy, Broadband in Tough, NY, California Get NTIA Grants

‘NTIA is calling for rules that stop the unnecessary and harmful collection and use of personal information.’

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Screenshot of Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, via C-Span

November 23, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Tuesday in a filing with the Federal Trade Commission that it wants privacy limits on the ways companies collect and use personal information.

The Commerce agency recommended companies minimize the data collected, restrict companies from using data for alternative purposes such as targeted advertising, take comprehensive approaches to new privacy protections, and consider stricter limits on biometric technologies.

The FTC is currently seeking comment on whether it should implement new rules on companies’ data collection and sales practices.

“NTIA is calling for rules that stop the unnecessary and harmful collection and use of personal information. Companies need guardrails about what they can build,” said NTIA head Alan Davidson.

In July this year, Davidson said privacy laws continue to be an issue in the US. He advocated for the first national federal privacy bill, which is currently before Congress.

Study finds telecoms in for rough patch with inflation

Analysys Mason, a management consultancy focused on telecommunication and technology, released a prediction Wednesday that said the telecommunication industry will face challenges, including inflation problems, in 2023.

Consumers may feel the pinch from higher retail prices due to inflation, the analysis finds, which could result in political pressure to moderate price increases, the study found.

“Combined with high investment costs and questions about potential returns, the market outlook is challenging as the telecoms industry tries to steer its path through price rises, rolling out network availability and launching new services,” said Larry Goldman, Analysys Mason chief analyst.

NTIA awards over $10 million in Rhode Island, California

The NTIA announced Tuesday that Rhode Island will receive $5.5 million to build high-speed internet infrastructure.

“The funding will advance a coordinated strategy to get all Rhode Islanders connected to high-speed, reliable, affordable broadband service and close the digital divide,” said Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

The money is coming from programs spawned by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $65 billion for broadband infrastructure.

NTIA also said Tuesday that it awarded two grants of nearly $5.6 million to Merced Community College and California State University Sacramento from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said these investments will help offer more online learning programs and train digital navigators in its program to work directly with surrounding communities on digital inclusion.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC Bans First Voice Service Provider, ACP Outreach Program Funding, Ciena Buys Two Companies

Global UC is the first company to be removed by the FCC from receiving call traffic for robocall violations.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

November 22, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday that telephone company Global UC will be cut off from other networks because it failed to meet the standards set out by the commission to prevent illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.

It is the first time the FCC has made such a decision, after it proposed in October to remove Global UC and other companies from receiving call traffic because of alleged violations of the robocall framework known as STIR/SHAKEN. Global UC will be removed from the Robocall Mitigation Database, which includes companies that share their call traffic with each other.

“We have reached the point where we are ready to remove companies if they fail to abide by the rules and heed our warnings,” Loyaan Egal, chief of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, said in a release.

“While this is a steep and impactful penalty, it underscores the importance we place on complying with our rules, which are designed to eliminate the ability of bad actors to use the U.S. communications networks to harm consumers,” Egal added.

New funding opportunities from ACP outreach programs

The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday a further two funding opportunities from two programs of its Affordable Connectivity Program.

On Thursday, the FCC announced four complementary grant programs to market the broadband subsidy program as well as the release of a notice of funding opportunity for both the National Competitive Outreach Program and the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program, worth up to $60 million and $10 million, respectively.

On Monday, the FCC announced the notice of funding opportunity for the remaining two programs, each offering up to $5 million in grants: the Your Home, Your Internet outreach grant and the ACP Navigator pilot program. Applications after due January 9, 2023.

The Your Home, Your Internet program provides funding to qualifying local, state and tribal housing agencies, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, and tenant associations to encourage residents who receive federal housing assistance to apply for the ACP.

The ACP Navigator pilot program, in partnership with the Universal Service Administrative Company, grants local schools districts and government agencies temporary access to USAC’s National Verifier— a centralized application system to quantify potential qualifying residents.

“Through federal housing assistance, millions of Americans have access to a home. It’s time to help them take advantage of ACP to access affordable Internet as well,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

The agency announced this summer the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program to raise awareness for the $14.2-billion program, which subsidizes monthly internet bills – of up to $30 per month and $75 per month for residents on tribal lands – and provides a $100 discount on device purchases for low-income applicants. The commission has said that there are millions more Americans who are eligible but have not signed up — in part because they are not aware.

Ciena acquires two companies for network expansion

Software and network services company Ciena announced Tuesday it is buying California-based hardware supplier Tibit Communications for $210 million and Massachusetts-based software company Benu Networks for an undisclosed amount.

Tibit and Benu both deploy single-source fiber conduit to distribute broadband network access to multiple end users including residential, commercial and public, known as passive optical network technology.

Ciena said the acquisition will help expand PON connectivity to residential areas, businesses, and public transportation. The merger will be paid in cash and Ciena will agree to employee retention agreements, according to the release.

“The acquisitions of Tibit Communications and Benu Networks will extend our ability to support customers’ next-generation metro and edge strategies as service providers globally accelerate investments to modernize their networks and improve connectivity at the network edge,” Scott McFeely, senior vice president of Ciena global products and services, said in the release.

“Tibit’s high-speed PON technologies and Benu’s subscriber management products, combined with Ciena’s current access and edge portfolio, will enable us to offer broader, more complete, and fully integrated broadband access solutions that combine routing, subscriber management, and PON features and functionality.”

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