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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.”
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Broadband Roundup

Grid Broadband Bill, Ting Gets Financing, Finley Engineering Has New CEO

A new bill would provide grants to providers who can quickly build middle-mile infrastructure along existing electrical grid system.

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Photo of Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., via Flickr

August 10, 2022 – A bill introduced in the Senate last week would make grants available to those who can build middle mile fiber infrastructure along existing municipal rights-of-way and use existing assets to reduce the financial, regulatory and permitting barriers to broadband buildouts.

The Grants to Rapidly Invest and Deploy Broadband Act is intended to use existing electrical infrastructure to quickly expand broadband infrastructure to the 120 million American households that don’t have adequate connectivity, according to a Wednesday press release from Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who co-introduced the bill with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

The legislation specifically notes that it would like to fund those that have existing partnerships with last-mile providers to connect homes and business and ensure that the technology is scalable for more advanced services, including accelerating 5G wireless infrastructure and making affordable gigabit broadband speeds.

The bill would also require that the network would support the security of the electric grid by installing a private communications network for grid operators.

“Building out fiber along our nation’s existing grid will provide the communications capacity needed to modernize our energy system, make our grid more cybersecure, and bring affordable high-speed internet to tens of millions of hard-to-reach households,” Cantwell said in the release. “It’s a triple win solution for consumers because it leverages existing rights-of-way and private sector ingenuity and investment to deliver cleaner electricity, stronger cybersecurity, and more accessible broadband services.”

Ting Fiber gets $200M financing

Telecommunications company Ting Fiber announced Tuesday that it has secured $200 million in financing from Generate Capital, which the company said will help it deploy next-generation communications infrastructure to municipalities across the country.

“We chose Generate because we wanted more than just a financing partner. We wanted their project management expertise, sustainability expertise and the wide range of capital solutions they offer – all of which will help Ting as we continue to rapidly scale our operations,” said Elliot Noss, CEO of Ting and its parent Tucows.

The financing will be used to accelerate Ting’s network deployment and to take advantage of its move from coaxial to fiber technology.

Some of the financing, which was signed on Monday, will be forwarded as Ting achieved operational milestones, it said.

Finley Engineering announces new CEO

The board of directors of broadband and energy engineering and consulting firm Finley Engineering announced Wednesday that Ty Middleton will be the company’s next president and CEO.

Middleton will replace Mike Boehne, who is retiring after being in the job for 10 years, according to the press release.

The release notes that Middleton has experience in the cybersecurity, software-as-a-service, and telecommunications sectors, the latter of which he has 30 years experience.

“He joins Finley with extensive experience in cross-functional leadership roles including general management, field and business operations, sales, and business development,” the release said.

“Middleton has led high-growth, customer-centric, technology-fueled businesses from start-ups to Fortune 150, including time at MCI Telecommunications, Qwest Communications, and CenturyLink,” it added.

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Broadband Roundup

FTC Phillips Stepping Down, Chips Act Now Law, Alaskan Entities Getting $50M in Broadband Grants

Phillips told Politico that he is leaving the competition watchdog this fall.

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Screenshot of President Joe Biden before signing the Chips and Science Act into law on Tuesday

August 9, 2022 – Federal Trade Commissioner Noah Phillips is stepping down from the competition watchdog, according to reporting from Politico.

The Republican commissioner – one of two on an agency with three Democrats – said he told President Joe Biden that he intends to resign this fall, according to the report.

Phillips has been critical of the direction the agency has taken under chairwoman and Big Tech critic Lina Khan, who was appointed by the president to lead the agency.

Phillips has expressed concern about the impact of antitrust rules on consumer prices, criticized the release of a report by the FTC that warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence to combat online harms, alleging that the commission did not consult outside experts, and broadly warned last year about the overall direction of the agency to turn away from the traditional way it viewed competition.

Others outside the agency have also expressed concern that the commission’s tilt, plus pieces of antitrust legislation before Congress, could harm the country’s global competitiveness in the tech industry.

Chips Act signed into law

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law legislation that would provide billions in incentives for the nation to invest in its own semiconductor manufacturing.

In comments delivered before the signing, Biden said the goal of the “once in a generation investment” is to help the country “lead the world in future industries and protect our national security.”

The Chips and Science Act of 2022, which passed the House late last month, is a broad bill with a specific provision that includes $52 billion to incentive domestic manufacturing of chips that power a range of technologies, including phones, watches, cars and laptops, as well as grants for the design and deployment of 5G networks.

Nations during the pandemic have struggled with getting a steady supply of the chips for products, thus contributing to a supply shortage on many important technologies. This triggered increasing concern about the country’s reliance on others for basic technologies.

Currently only 12 percent of global chips are made in the U.S., which is down from 37 percent in the 1990s, according to Senator Michael Bennett, D-CO.

Alaska getting $50 million in broadband grants

Two native entities in Alaska are getting $51 million for high-speed internet, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Monday.

The grants from the Commerce agency’s Internet for All program will go to Doyon Limited and Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission to provide connectivity to 581 unserved households across villages in the Doyon region and in eight tribal governments in the Ahtna region for “activities including telehealth, distance learning, telework, and workforce development.”

“The digital divide on our tribal lands, especially in remote Alaska, is stark,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in a press release. “The necessary investment through the Biden-Harris Internet for All initiative provides real change to these communities to participate in the digital economy, whether it’s education, health or jobs.”

The release said NTIA head Alan Davidson is visiting Alaska this week and said it is “humbling to see first-hand how these grants will positively impact the daily lives of Alaskan Natives who have been disconnected for far too long.”

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Broadband Roundup

Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, Amazon’s SpaceX Satellite Concerns, Axios Acquired

The establishment of the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program is intended to bring awareness to the program.

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Photo of Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, via Wikicommons

August 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Friday established an outreach program to get more American households registered to its broadband subsidy program.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount on broadband services of up to $30 per month and a one-time $100 toward a device, currently has over 13 million low-income American households signed up, but the FCC has said that there are millions more eligible who are not taking advantage of the program.

During an open meeting on Friday, the commission approved an order directing the agency’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to develop, administer and manage the new Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program, which is intended to raise awareness about the ACP.

The commission was infused with grants from Congress in the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to put toward outreach for the program. As such, $100 million will go toward the effort.

“Since the inception of the ACP, Commission staff have engaged in extensive outreach, including numerous speaking engagements and enrollment events, and continue to seek out opportunities to coordinate with other federal agencies,” the agency said in a Friday press release.

“Throughout these efforts, the Commission has worked closely with trusted local entities that are familiar with the communities they serve.  However, for many of these partners, budget constraints limit the extent of ACP outreach they can perform without additional financial support.”

The agency on Friday also established the “Your Home, Your Internet” one-year pilot program, which is intended to raise awareness and make it easier to apply to the ACP for households receiving federal housing assistance

Ahead of the announcement, telehealth advocate Craig Settles wrote an op-ed for Broadband Breakfast outlining ideas for how to improve outreach to the ACP.

Amazon warns FCC about volume of SpaceX satellites

In a meeting with FCC officials last week, Amazon representatives repeated concerns about the alleged negative effect of the number of broadband satellites SpaceX will launch into space.

According to a post-meeting letter released Thursday, Amazon urged the commission to ensure that SpaceX’s deployment of its Gen2 non-geostationary orbit fixed-satellite services “does not come at the expense of competition and innovation from other emerging NGSO FSS systems.”

Part of the concern for Amazon, which is preparing its Project Kuiper low-earth orbit constellation, is the size of the proposed deployment. At nearly 30,000 satellites, according to Amazon, it “raises questions about space safety, interference, and coexistence with other operators that will impact competition and deployment for decades.”

SpaceX’s Starlink already has a large LEO constellation for broadband service, with more than 2,700 and with approval to put many more thousands in LEO to come.

Cox acquires news website Axios

News company Axios announced Monday that it has agreed to be acquired by Cox Enterprises, a large media company with a telecommunications arm, for $525 million.

Cox made a previous investment last year in the news company, and it said in a Monday press release that this latest move is part of its effort to “grow and diversify the company.”

The deal will see the co-founders still lead the day-to-day operations of the company, according to a press release.

Axios, which was founded in 2017, is known for its brief lines on news items that cuts to the point.

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