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Broadband Breakfast to Release Middle Mile Report Ahead of Special Connect (X) Session

The May 10 Connect (X) session will discuss the Middle Mile Program and the key role of state broadband offices.

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WASHINGTON, May 5, 2023 — Broadband Breakfast’s exclusive report for the month of May will focus on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Middle Mile Program, in connection with Broadband Breakfast’s upcoming session on Wednesday, May 10 at the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connect (X) conference in New Orleans.

The report, which will be released on Monday, May 8 to members of the Broadband Breakfast Club, will review the rules of the program, the criteria on which projects will be evaluated, the details of the Buy America waiver and the perspectives of trade associations as the NTIA gears up to announce winners by the end of June.

On May 10, Broadband Breakfast will host a special lunch session – Broadband Breakfast for Lunch at Connect (X) – discussing the $1 billion dollar Middle Mile program, its impact on last-mile deployment efforts and the role of state broadband offices in this program.

The Middle Mile program comes earlier than the much larger $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

The timely event will explore how the entities that have applied for Middle Mile funding plan to utilize it, if granted. It will also discuss additional funding through state broadband programs for Middle Mile deployments. It will consider the impact of commercial fiber deployments upon wireless infrastructure along Middle Mile routes. And, finally, it will address how these projects — and the expanded deployment capabilities they create — will impact the last-mile efforts funded by BEAD.

The panel will be moderated by Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, and feature ConnectLA Executive Director Veneeth Iyengar, who leads broadband efforts for the state of Louisiana, the first state to be awarded an IIJA planning grant and American Rescue Plan funding. Under Iyengar’s direction, Louisiana also became the top state in the nation for per capita adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Several other experts will join the panel, including Tilson CEO Joshua Broder — who brings more than 16 years of experience in telecommunications infrastructure design, development and deployment — as well as Paul Challoner, vice president for network product solutions at Ericsson, Melissa Newman, vice president for government affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association and Drew Colbow, director of operational strategy at Crown Castle.

More information about the event, the panelists and registration can be found on the Connect (X) website. Those who register for Broadband Breakfast for Lunch at Connect (X) will also receive one complimentary month of access to the Breakfast Club.

Reporter Em McPhie studied communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a managing editor for the student newspaper. In addition to agency and freelance marketing experience, she has reported extensively on Section 230, big tech, and rural broadband access. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer programming skills to underprivileged children.

Spectrum

FCC Votes to Preserve Parts of 12 GHz Spectrum Band for Satellite Use

In light of technical evidence, the FCC has voted to preserve 12.2-12.7 GHz band for satellite purposes.

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Photo of FCC Commissioners Nathan Simington, Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel, Geoffrey Starks (left to right)

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission voted in an open meeting Thursday to preserve parts of the 12 GHz spectrum band for advanced satellite service.

The FCC adopted rules to preserve spectrum in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band for satellite services by refusing to authorize two-way, high-powered terrestrial mobile use on the same band due to the significant risk of harmful interference to existing satellite services.  

“In 12.2 we are correcting course in response to technical evidence,” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks in his comments. “Based on the studies filed, our engineers have concluded to date that high-powered mobile broadband when deployed throughout the country will interfere with established and emerging satellite services that serve millions of customers and is growing.” 

“I would have welcomed a path forward that allowed both services to thrive, but for now, it is time for us to adapt,” he concluded. 

The FCC also adopted a proposal to repurpose some or part of the 12.7-13.25 GHz band to support flexible terrestrial wireless use and is seeking comment regarding the action. 

Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite broadband service provider said in a letter to the FCC earlier this month that it appreciated that the proposal to reject the use of high-powered mobile operations in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band would be considered.  

The company has raised alarm for years about potential interference issues if the commission opens the band to mobile use.  

RS Access said in a letter to the FCC that the band is compatible with both mobile and satellite operations. The letter suggested that the FCC “tentatively conclude” that high-power fixed operations are compatible with other “co-primary operations.” 

The company’s CEO, Noah Campbell, issued a statement following the FCC’s Thursday decision stating that he “welcomes the FCC’s unanimous and bipartisan vote on how to enable valuable consumer services in the 12 GHz band.”

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel concluded her remarks with a plea for Congress to reauthorize spectrum auction authority to the FCC, which expired in March for the first time in its history. 

“Restoring this authority will provide the United States with the strongest foundation to compete in a global economy, counter our adversaries’ technology ambitions, and safeguard our national security,” she said. 

Continued crackdown on illegal robocalls and more flexible rules for 60 GHz spectrum

The FCC also approved and adopted new rules to further expand its robocall blocking requirements for voice carriers. The new rules will extend several call blocking requirements to include voice service providers that are not currently covered by FCC rules. 

In November, the FCC ruled that straight-to-voicemail robocalls will be subject to the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s consumer protections. The FCC has focused its energy over the last few years on eliminating robocall activity in the United States. 

“Today we build on these efforts by clarifying some of our rules designed to put a halt to illegal robocalls. We make clear that all carriers have a duty to respond to traceback requests in 24 hours so we can figure out who is behind any new rash of illegal robocalls,” said Rosenworcel in a statement.  

According to a Federal Trade Commission report, U.S. consumers reported a total of $798 million lost to fraud via phone call in 2022.  

The FCC also adopted new, more flexible rules for the 60 GHz spectrum band to support innovative radar technology, which include important applications that alert drivers to children left in hot cars, detect hand gestures to improve mobility, and assist drones in construction and emergency rescue, among other applications. 

“Welcome to the radar revolution. It is no longer just for tracking planes and measuring weather patterns. That’s because we are on the cusp of deploying radar technology for a much wider range of uses,” said Rosenworcel. “In this decision, we are updating our approach to the 60 GHz band. We are modernizing it so that it can be used to its full potential.” 

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Spectrum

Wireless Providers Urge Congress to Move on FCC Spectrum Auction Authority

Small wireless carriers urge Congress to give FCC authority to auction spectrum.

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Screenshot of FCC meeting

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2023 – A group of small and regional wireless carriers urged Congress to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority in a letter sent to the hill on Thursday. 

“We urge Congress to swiftly act to reinstate the FCC’s authority to auction spectrum,” read the letter. “We depend on auctioned and licensed spectrum to offer the communities we serve the latest wireless innovations and secure and reliable service.” 

By allowing the FCC’s authority to lapse, continued the letter, Congress has “jeopardized our country’s wireless leadership and the benefits of wireless connectivity in rural, regional, and nationwide markets.” 

For the first time in its history, the FCC’s spectrum auction authority lapsed on March 9 following Congress’ inaction to pass a bill that would extend the agency’s authority. The authority to auction spectrum was first given to the FCC in 1994 and the agency has since hosted over 100 auctions and raised more than $233 billion in revenue.  

“For three decades, the FCC’s authority to auction the nation’s airwaves has been an indispensable tool for harnessing the promise of new wireless technologies while also spurring economic growth, creating jobs, and strengthening our national security and global leadership,” wrote Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement following the expiration. 

The Senate failed to act on a bill passed by the House in February that would extend the FCC’s authority to May 19 when Senator Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, proposed the deadline be pushed back to September 30 instead.  

Rounds and Hirono argued that the date change would allow the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to complete a study on the impact of repurposing government spectrum for commercial use. 

Senator Peter Welch, D-Vermont, objected to the data change, claiming that it would prove a disincentive to a swift agreement on behalf of consumers. The delay in passing the bill sparked frustration in the House. 

“We are disappointed that the Senate has not acted to [pass the bill] because of the objections of one Senator, and that the FCC’s authority to issue spectrum licenses will expire for the first time ever as a result,” read a statement issued by Representatives Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, Cathy Rodgers, R-Washington, and others. 

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5G

Crown Castle CEO Says 5G Plus Fixed Wireless Can Rival Fiber Connections

Experts say that 5G increases fixed wireless speed to be a competitor to wired networks.

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Photo of Jay Brown, CEO of Crown Castle from Alter.

NEW ORLEANS, May 11, 2023 – Fifth generation mobile networks has enabled fixed wireless technology to be deployed in areas where it wouldn’t have been accepted otherwise, said Jay Brown, CEO of communications infrastructure company Crown Castle at a Connect (X) forum here on Wednesday.

Fixed wireless will never be a true replacement for a wired network, said Brown, but providers have been successful thus far because running 5G on a fixed wireless network brings speeds up to par with wired connections. “The speeds you get on a fixed wireless network [with 5G] are matching that of the wired solution,” he said.

We’ve seen that if given a choice, consumers will choose wireless over a wired connection, Brown continued, speaking at the Wireless Infrastructure Association trade show. Providers have noted an increase in demand for small cell towers that transmit wireless over a high frequency in a small geographic area, he claimed.

For many communities, managing aesthetic is singularly important and this desire fuels the deployment of small cells, he said.

Due to the faster speeds that 5G enables, providers are seeing deployment in areas that would not have accepted it otherwise due to its lower speeds, added Steve Vondran of American Tower, provider of wireless communications infrastructure..

This allows providers to enter previously untapped networks and connect people across rough terrain and in rural areas, he said.

“Fixed wireless is driving incremental returns but this is just the first application [of 5G],” said Brown. Our use cases haven’t evolved to utilize the full capacity of 5G, agreed Vondran.

Spectrum concerns

However, for wireless providers, spectrum allocations are a continuous concern. The Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority which allows it to auction spectrum for private use expired in March.

Vondran suggested that the government will need to work with the Department of Defense which holds a significant amount of spectrum to make more available privately.

“If the demand drivers are as predicted, we will need more spectrum made available,” said Jeff Stoops, CEO of SBA Communications.

Until more spectrum is released, industry leaders expect that spectrum shortages will lead to great densification of the networks, the process of increasing small cell towers in an area to address growing demand.

Leaders of the FCC urged lawmakers in a letter dated in April to extend the agency’s spectrum authority amid demands for more across the industry.

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