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FCC’s Ruling Modernizing the 5.9 GigaHertz Band for Commercial Use Met With Unanimous Support

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Screenshot from the FCC November meeting

November 19, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday repurposed 45 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9 GigaHertz (GHz) band for unlicensed operations, stating the spectrum had been poorly utilized by its former proprietor. The decision was unanimous.

In 2004, the agency dedicated 75 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9 band to the auto industry for improving Dedicated Short-Range Communications between motor vehicles, in an apparent move to enhance public safety.

After nearly two decades of waiting for the industry to broadly deploy DSRC technology, “only a few thousand vehicles, out of the roughly 274 million cars and trucks on our roadways, have this technology on board,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

The FCC‘s ruling not only reallocates spectrum for commercial wireless use, but further updates the agency’s policies regarding intelligent transportation system services, by authorizing the use of connected vehicles technology called C-V2X, a cellular vehicle communications technology.

As C-V2X proponents still seek access to the band, the agency’s decision retains 30 megahertz of spectrum for automotive ITS services.

However, to ensure the maximum value of the long underutilized spectrum is realized, the lower 45 megahertz of the band, which sit next to the existing unlicensed 5.8 GHz band, will be utilized to support Wi-Fi necessary for telemedicine, education, and other valuable services, at a time when American’s need it most.

“What is most promising about this delegation is the ability of Wi-Fi providers to rapidly incorporate existing offerings, as soon as the order is effective,” said Commissioner Mike O’Rielly.

Many private and public entities have spoken out, commending the agency’s decision

Wireless Internet Service Providers Association  Vice President for Policy Louisa Peraertz praised the FCC’s leadership role in opening the underutilized 5.9 GHz band for shared, unlicensed commercial use today. “It has been largely offline for nearly two decades, denying Americans tremendous value and consumer welfare,” said Paraertz.

The FCC ruling tees up important transition matters going forward.

It allows immediate widespread indoor use of the lower 45 megahertz of the band. But a further rulemaking is pending. It would allow WISPs to permanently use the 45 megahertz outdoors.

“We look forward to working with all stakeholders to maximize the band for broadband consumers who need this unlicensed spectrum to stay connected during the pandemic,” said Paraertz.

NCTA, the Internet and Television Association, also endorsed the FCC’s united choice, saying that the “Commission’s bipartisan approval of a band-split approach will enable the creation of a new, wide indoor Wi-Fi channel that can quickly be brought online for American consumers, while also preserving sufficient spectrum for new automotive safety innovations.”

Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, supported of the agency’s initiative, saying “today’s FCC action is a win for closing the digital divide, a win for closing the homework gap, and a win for auto safety.”

The addition of 45 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum will create Wi-Fi channels capable of supporting the next standard Wi-Fi 6. This will enable wireless providers to dramatically increase the speed and reliability of rural broadband and increase the power of public hotspots and mobile hotspots, on which many low-income families rely, said Feld.

“In addition, the FCC will phase out the outmoded vehicle communication technology selected as the standard 20 years ago and will phase in a modern, more efficient technology requiring substantially less spectrum for collision avoidance and safety,” he said.

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.

FCC

Federal Communications Commission Implements Rules for Affordable Connectivity Program

The agency implemented new rules on the Affordable Connectivity Program, which makes a new subsidy permanent.

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Photo of Jessica Rosenworcel by Rob Kunzig of Morning Consult

WASHINGTON, January 24, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules Friday for its Affordable Connectivity Program that changes and, in some cases narrows, the eligibility requirements for the subsidy to allow for more households to be connected.

An extension of the former Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which offered discounts to broadband service providers to subsidize connectivity and devices, the new program will make it easier for providers to get in the program by automatically making eligible providers in good standing.

Additionally, the FCC maintains that the monthly discount on broadband service is limited to one internet discount per household rather than allowing the benefit for separate members of a household. “Adopting a one-per-household limitation best ensures that Program funding is available to the largest possible number of eligible households,” the agency said in its report.

To accommodate the volume of eligible households enrolling in the ACP, the FCC allowed providers until March 22 – 60 days after its Friday order is published in the Federal Register– to make necessary changes to ensure that the ACP can be applied to providers’ currently sold plans.

“So much of our day to day—work, education, healthcare and more—has migrated online. As a result, it’s more apparent than ever before that broadband is no longer nice-to-have, it’s need-to-have, for everyone, everywhere,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “But there are far too many households across the country that are wrestling with how to pay for gas and groceries and also keep up with the broadband bill. This program, like its predecessor, can make a meaningful difference.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act transformed the EBB to the longer-term Affordable Connectivity Program by allocating an additional $14.2 billion to it.

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FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Shares Proposal to Promote Broadband Competition In Apartment Buildings

If adopted, the FCC’s regulations would increase broadband options for tenants.

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, January 21, 2022––Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared a draft regulation that aims to would promote competition and greater broadband choice for tenants in apartment buildings.

If adopted, the regulations would prevent practices that keep tenants from choosing their own broadband provider.

“With more than one-third of the U.S. population living in apartments, mobile home parks, condominiums, and public housing, it’s time to crack down on practices that lock out broadband competition and consumer choice,” said Rosenworcel.

The proposal would prohibit broadband providers from entering into revenue-sharing agreements with apartment building owners. If approved by her fellow commissioners and hence adopted as official agency rules, the regulation would also require providers to disclose any existing marketing arrangements they have with building owners to tenants.

“Consumers deserve access to a choice of providers in their buildings. I look forward to having my colleagues join me in lifting the obstacles to competitive choice for broadband for the millions of tenants across the nation,” Rosenworcel said.

Her proposal builds on a September 2021 notice that invited a new round of comments during an examination of broadband access In apartment and office buildings. The FCC said the proceedings revealed “a pattern of new practices that inhibit competition, contrary to the Commission’s goals, and limit opportunities for competitive providers to offer service for apartment, condo and office building unit tenants.”

More than one third of the U.S. population lives in condominiums or apartment buildings.

Exclusive agreements between broadband providers and buildings owners limit options for tenants, who are precluded from access to new carriers. “Across the country throughout the pandemic, the need for more and better broadband access has never been clearer,” Rosenworcel added.

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FCC Announces Largest Approval Yet for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund: $1 Billion

The agency said Thursday it has approved $1 billion to 69 providers in 32 states.

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Photo illustration from the Pelican Institute

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced its largest approval yet from the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, greenlighting on Thursday $1 billion from a reverse auction process that ended with award announcements in December but that the new-look agency has been scrutinizing in recent months.

The agency said in a press release that this fifth round of approvals includes 69 providers who are expected to serve 518,000 locations in 32 states over 10 years. Its previous round approved $700 million worth of applications to cover 26 states. Previous rounds approved $554 million for broadband in 19 states, $311 million in 36 states, and $163 million in 21 states.

The agency still has some way to approve the entirety of the fund, as it’s asked providers that were previously awarded RDOF money in December to revisit their applications to see if the areas they have bid for are not already served. So far, a growing list have defaulted on their respective areas, some saying it was newer FCC maps that showed them what they didn’t previously know. The agency said Thursday that about 5,000 census blocks have been cleared as a result of that process.

The FCC also said Thursday it saved $350 million from winning bidders that have either failed to get state certification or didn’t follow through on their applications. In one winning bidder’s case, the FCC said Thursday Hotwire violated the application rules by changing its ownership structure.

“This latest round of funding will open up even more opportunities to connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, reliable broadband service,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “Today’s actions reflect the hard work we’ve put in over the past year to ensure that applicants meet their obligations and follow our rules.  With thoughtful oversight, this program can direct funding to areas that need broadband and to providers who are qualified to do the job.”

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