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WISPA Urges FCC To Update Its Rules To Foster More Active Secondary Market, Get Spectrum Into Use

Washington, DC, June 3, 2019 – Today, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) filed comments with the FCC on partitioning, disaggregation, and leasing of spectrum which generally support the Commission’s objectives, and which call for other incentives to foster a more active secondary market, boosting licensed spectrum use and quicker deployment, especially in rural areas.

WISPs provide fixed wireless broadband service to nearly four million, mainly rural Americans.  Though unlicensed spectrum is foundational to the majority of WISPs and their businesses, a growing number of WISPs seek access to spectrum on a longer-term basis and for exclusive use.  Having assigned bandwidth can be more attractive to investors to finance operations critical to accelerating service to the unserved and underserved. 

Current regulations, however, have created a marketplace that enables spectrum warehousing by large providers, and which keeps unused spectrum – often in less lucrative rural areas – fallow due to the lack of effective incentives that could promote vibrant, secondary markets.  This and the economics of rural coverage mean that large providers generally provide service in urban “holes,” but leave the rural “donuts” unserved.  Updating the FCC’s rules governing partitioning, disaggregation and leasing to encompass all rural broadband providers would help get spectrum into the hands of small, rural providers such as WISPs to use, ultimately serving Congress’ overarching policy goal of eradicating the digital divide. 

The Commission also should afford licensees on both sides of a secondary market transaction some flexibility to reduce their performance requirements in order to incent such activity, requiring, among other considerations, that licensees be subject to both “use it or share it” and “keep what you use” mechanisms covering the retained spectrum.  This approach, in combination with changes to buildout rules, will enhance the incentives for license holders to monetize unused spectrum rather than risk losing it.  

Finally, the FCC should streamline secondary market transaction approval procedures to base them on notification rather than approval following public notice.  Allowing routine secondary market transactions to move forward expeditiously will reduce transactional costs and burdens for all involved and will enable those acquiring spectrum rights to begin build-out activities sooner.

“Small rural providers face numerous challenges in serving their communities, and chief among them is access to spectrum,” said WISPA president and CEO, Claude Aiken. “Changing the FCC’s rules here solves many of the chicken and egg problems, which frustrate development of working, secondary markets,” he added.  “The changes we urge will result in more spectrum being used in rural areas, helping more Americans get online and benefitting from the innovation which WISPs and other small, rural providers can quickly and cost-effectively deliver.”      


WISPA is a membership-driven trade association that promotes the development, advancement and unity of the fixed wireless Internet service provider industry. WISPA has over 800 members that support WISPA’s advocacy, education and other collaborative industry initiatives. For more information, visit www.wispa.org.

Mike Wendy

Filing available upon e-mail request

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