WISPA Concerned About FCC’s New CBRS Proposal
The following statement is by Claude Aiken, President and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), on the FCC’s proposed Report and Order for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), released today:
WISPA is concerned that the FCC’s new proposal to auction CBRS licenses by counties will slow the future deployment of fixed wireless broadband networks in rural America. To be clear, the winners here will be large companies that will foreclose meaningful opportunities for rural small businesses to compete for mid-band spectrum, which is critically important for them to deliver broadband services to millions of rural Americans that do not have access to 25/3 Mbps broadband service in their homes, farms, and businesses.
While we are pleased that the FCC is moving forward with rules, and that those rules reject the ill-conceived idea of auctioning Priority Access Licenses (PALs) at the Partial Economic Area (PEA) level, the combination of county-sized licenses – especially where they are subject to package bidding – plus long license terms and renewability will shut out a significant number of our members from using licensed CBRS spectrum to deliver affordable, reliable broadband services to under-served rural areas.
We are pleased that the proposed rules will grant bidding credits to small businesses and rural broadband providers, and we hope that these auction mechanisms will enable meaningful participation from our members, the vast majority of which will be entitled to those benefits.
Across the nation, an estimated 24 million Americans – mostly in rural areas – lack access to even one choice for fixed terrestrial broadband at the FCC’s benchmark speed of 25 Mbps/3Mbps. The CBRS band – and other mid-band airwaves – are the best opportunities we will see in a generation to address that problem. But those will be missed opportunities if the FCC continues with this plan, which is heavily biased toward large companies focusing on urban areas.
Throughout this proceeding, WISPA and our allies from a wide range of critically important industries have argued against county-sized licenses. U.S. counties vary greatly in size and character. Hundreds of counties cover thousands of square miles; and many contain both densely populated urban areas and less populated suburban and rural areas. Outlying areas in such counties are generally ignored by the larger carriers today (unless subsidies are attached), and such areas will remain ignored under this new proposal.
A diverse coalition of users offered a compromise solution to the FCC in May that would have preserved two PALs in every census tract nationwide, down from seven today; while creating five PALs in every county. We called for seven-year terms and renewability based on performance criteria. We are displeased that the FCC did not accept this broadly-supported solution.
There is still time to amend this proposal before a Commission vote later this month. WISPA will continue to engage with the Commissioners and their staffs to seek changes to the draft item and advocate for build-out and auction rules that will truly unlock the potential of this band to enable rural broadband deployment and competition.
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.
Dale Curtis and Breyana Franklin for WISPA
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