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WISPA Pleased EBS and MTE Items on July Open Meeting Agenda

Washington, DC, June 19, 2019 – Today, the FCC circulated a draft report and order, which, among other things, would afford EBS licensees additional flexibility by eliminating outdated educational requirements; allow the transfer of EBS licenses to commercial entities, and provide for the auction of that spectrum on a county-wide basis.  The agency also will consider an NPRM and Declaratory Ruling that would work to promote broadband deployment and competition in apartments, condominiums, office buildings, and other multiple tenant environments (MTEs). 

WISPA is pleased to see both items on the July Open Meeting agenda.  If adopted, the one-two punch of allocating more spectrum combined with promoting greater access to MTEs will boost broadband deployment and choice for all Americans, including those in unserved and underserved rural areas of the country.

The 2.5 GHz band is particularly valuable due to the fact that it is the largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3GHz.  For a variety of reasons, however, it has gone largely unused.  WISPA has advocated for changes that would bring the 2.5 GHz band up to date, promoting intensive use of both currently licensed EBS spectrum and new EBS spectrum licenses.  The proposed changes by the FCC – chief among them being allowing EBS licensees to fully transfer their licenses to commercial providers; and the ability to bid for licenses on a county-wide basis – will make more efficient and effective use of these airwaves.

WISPA is disappointed, however, that the auction of 2.5 GHz spectrum will be in one extremely large block of 100 MHz and a small block of 16.5 MHz, and that the FCC is proposing to not allow bidding credits.  The proposed auction design could, therefore, foreclose small providers from having a meaningful opportunity to acquire a sufficient amount of spectrum at auction.

As for MTEs, the FCC has prohibited the use of exclusive service contracts for video and telecommunications services, but the rules do not go far enough in extending their protections to standalone broadband providers – a loophole permitting contractual provisions that have the effect of locking out competitors.  In 2017, the FCC adopted a Notice of Inquiry showing anti-competitive behavior by incumbent providers.  The NPRM and Declaratory Ruling will work to end these practices.

“Our members provide fixed wireless broadband to over four million rural Americans, and, like the big guys, they’re looking at every way possible to obtain valuable spectrum and competitive access to third-party facilities to deliver services to their hungry customers,” stated Claude Aiken, president, and CEO of WISPA.  “The flexibility afforded to EBS licensees represents an important breakthrough for this largely fallow band, though we wish the FCC had proposed an auction design better suited to the needs of small providers.  Banishing anti-competitive contracts that keep broadband providers out of MTEs will allow our members to compete on a level playing field.  Ultimately, the consumer wins with these important proposals.”

Aiken added, “As the details firm up, WISPA stands ready to work with the Commission so that all players, especially small providers, can meaningfully participate in the new EBS auction process, as well as gain better access to MTEs.”

WISPA’s approximately 800 members are composed of fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the industry that supports fixed wireless broadband, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components needed to run a successful business. Our members, and WISPs, in general, provide broadband access to over 4 million residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.

Mike Wendy

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