WISPA Disappointed with FCC’s CBRS Vote But Sees New Opportunities for Rural Broadband; Welcomes New Rulemaking for the 6 GHz Band
Washington, DC – The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) is disappointed that the Federal Communications Commission voted today to set aside the widely supported, pro-rural, pro-innovation rules in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum band (CBRS, 3550-3700 MHz) and instead adopt a new approach that will slow the future deployment of broadband networks in rural America.
“We appreciate that Commissioner O’Rielly and his staff engaged with us on this issue on multiple occasions, as did all of the commissioners, and we commend the FCC for rejecting the idea of auctioning CBRS licenses at the very large Partial Economic Area (PEA) level,” said WISPA President Claude Aiken. “However, the new combination of county-sized licenses, package bidding, long license terms, and renewal expectancy will shut out a significant portion of our members from using licensed CBRS spectrum to bring affordable, reliable broadband services to under-served rural areas.”
“This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially at a time when 24 million Americans lack robust fixed broadband service, and when small, local fixed wireless operators often offer the only business model that can reach them in a sustainable way,” Aiken said. “Many of our members have made significant investments in the CBRS band and were poised to reach millions more consumers who are within reach of their towers today. Now they will have to review their business plans in a significantly changed business and regulatory environment.
“The ‘race to 5G’ must not become an excuse for one 5G use case – mobile wireless – to get all of the advantages,” Aiken said. “Indeed, spectrum policy experts have noted that this new policy is likely to slow the rollout of 5G by reducing market entry of disruptive new competitors, and it will result in lower auction proceeds.
“WISPA members also are disappointed that the FCC rejected our proposal to provide a 35 percent bidding credit for very small businesses, which would have given some of our members more of a fighting chance at acquiring CBRS licenses; or why the FCC is signaling approval of package bidding for multiple counties, which would further enhance the large companies’ power to shut out smaller competitors,” Aiken said.
“Despite these negatives, we are pleased that that the FCC is preserving at least 80 megahertz of unlicensed General Authorized Access (GAA) spectrum nationwide, which is enough to accommodate a fair amount of growth for many of our members. Also, some of our larger members have expressed an openness to pursuing county-based licenses.
“We now look forward to the commercial launch phase; and we will continue to advocate for auction procedures that will allow as many of our members as possible to participate in the CBRS auction,” Aiken concluded.”
Cautious Optimism on 6 GHz Proposal
Meanwhile, WISPA praised the FCC for approving a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to make a significant amount of spectrum available in the 6 GHz band for shared use with licensed point-to-point services. Because WISPA members currently use licensed 6 GHz wireless links and are also interested in accessing additional spectrum for outdoor use to relieve congestion in the nearby 5 GHz band, WISPA seeks a balanced approach that protects incumbents and enables shared use for new deployments.
Overall, WISPA agrees that the NPRM is a good starting point for policy making. In particular, the framework recognizes that indoor devices and outdoor devices should be treated differently given their potential impact on existing operations.
“We look forward to engaging with the FCC and other stakeholders in making this spectrum resource available for outdoor fixed wireless commercial use as soon as possible,” Aiken said.
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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