Dale Curtis
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WISPs See 3.5 GHz in Small License Sizes as Critical to Broadband in Rural America

Redistributed by permission of Warren Communications News at www.warren-news.com

 

10/18/2017

Wireless ISPs, backed up by Google and other advocates of unlicensed spectrum, are mounting an all-out challenge to get the FCC to make changes to its 3.5 GHz NPRM to be voted at the Oct. 24 commissioners’ meeting. Wireless ISP Association officials met Tuesday with Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who helped develop the NPRM, on their concerns over the size of priority access licenses (PALs) that would be part of the rules. WISPA officials told us Wednesday they view the band as critical to their future, since many WISPs need more mid-band spectrum to continue to compete.

Among those seeking changes to the NPRM, focus has been on O’Rielly because of the big role he played in developing the draft and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who's seeking changes to the item. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel signaled she's ready to dissent (see 1710120009).

Jimmy Carr, CEO of All Points Broadband in Ashburn, Virginia, and Mark Radabaugh, president of Amplex Internet in Luckey, Ohio, said in an interview that rural customers are using a lot of broadband for video and demand improved connection rates, and they need more spectrum. Both are WISPA board members.

“This is really a make or break moment for our industry and for rural America,” Carr said. “We are the small businesses who are investing private capital to solve what people agree is the most pressing public policy challenge in rural America, which is connecting the unconnected. We need mid-band spectrum to do that.” WISPs “are using every megahertz that’s available to us and we need additional spectrum capacity,” he said. WISPs are preparing their networks in reliance on the rules approved two years ago, he said. “This is really a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

If the FCC sells PALs as partial economic areas, Radabaugh said his company would have to buy a license about three times bigger than his service area. “It’s not that those areas aren’t covered; they’re covered by other WISPs,” he said. “We can certainly survive in what we have. But we can’t keep adding capacity and speed.” Both said their average customer uses more than 140 GBs of data monthly.

Carr said WISPA’s focus is mostly on rural areas where members will be “the highest and best users of the spectrum,” and they will bid for the PALs in an eventual auction. The draft rules would consider allowing smaller license sizes in rural areas than in urban where carriers are more likely to pursue licenses (see 1710030059).

Paul Margie, lawyer for Google, reported on a meeting he and WISPA officials had with Louis Peraertz, an aide to Clyburn. “The draft NPRM would undo rules the Commission unanimously adopted just two years ago, and we explained [WISPs] and many others had invested and deployed commercial services and experimental trials in reliance on those rules,” said a filing in docket 17-258. Google said innovative equipment companies “including Cambium, Telrad, and Baicells, are competing vigorously in the market and that providers that have deployed their equipment in reliance on the FCC’s adopted rules are prepared to expand broadband rapidly into the … band through software upgrades, without the need for additional hardware.”

Public Knowledge said in meetings at the FCC with Commissioner Brendan Carr and others the PAL framework should be left as is. “The Commission should not delay putting the band to productive use -- by both licensed and unlicensed users -- in order to change long-settled issues that would merely benefit a single business model at the expense of competitors, innovative uses of the spectrum, and the public interest,” PK said.

Frontier Communications said in meeting with aides to O’Rielly and Chairman Ajit Pai that the draft NPRM is right to ask about smaller license sizes in rural areas. “Making available spectrum for rural fixed wireless deployments as swiftly as practicable would provide another key tool in the toolbox to reach the hardest to serve rural Americans,” Frontier said.

 

Copyright 2017 by Warren Communications News, Inc

Redistributed by permission of Warren Communications News at www.warren-news.com.

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