IMPORTANT RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AT THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

Posted on: October 23rd, 2017

The FCC is designing several auctions right now that could be of interest to any telecommunications provider.  While dates for these auctions have not been set, there is significant activity at the FCC regarding these matters right now.  

The attorneys at Kitchens New Cleghorn can help you understand these opportunities.  They can guide you through the auction process.  And they can assist you in matters such as corporate formation, partnership arrangements, or acquisition of or access to spectrum or fixed facilities.   

In Auction 903, the FCC will award on-going high-cost universal service support through competitive bidding in a multiple round, reverse auction.  Telecommunications providers who are willing to deploy high-speed broadband and voice services to fixed locations in unserved communities using either wire facilities or radiofrequency spectrum are eligible for this auction.

Of course, there are still many details being worked out by the FCC at this time concerning this auction.  For example, the FCC is considering application requirements, reserve prices, bidding procedures, and many other items.  Reply comments can be filed by interested parties in October.  Thereafter, the FCC will digest these comments and then issue the necessary orders to establish the auction and set dates for filing applications.  There will be a lot to do during this period, so getting a head start makes sense.  You can start now with the help of Kitchens New Cleghorn attorneys.

The second upcoming auction will involve spectrum above 24 GHZ.  This is also referred to as millimeter wavelength spectrum.  Historically, this spectrum was not attractive because of the degradation in technical performance over relatively short distances.  However, people now think that, with smaller cell sites contemplated for 5G wireless and the Internet of Things (IoT), these characteristics are actually assets rather than liabilities.

The FCC is currently establishing necessary rules for the new wireless service and for clearing some of that spectrum or establishing safeguards for protecting existing licensees or for permitting licensees to share portions of some of these spectrum bands.  In July of last year, the FCC issued a lengthy and detailed Report and Order (R&O) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM).

In the R&O it established a new service:  Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service or UMFUS.  It designated the service as either fixed or mobile, and assigned portions of the 28, 37, and 39 GHZ bands to that service.  It also established the necessary rules for an auction and set eligibility, license term, license areas, and technical rules for UMFUS.  All of this was required to conform to international radiofrequency regulatory rules, among other reasons.

In the FNPRM the FCC is currently proposing to add portions of the 24, 32, 42, 47 and 50 GHZ bands (and maybe the 70/80 and 95 GHZ bands) to the new UMFS.  (There also were petitions for reconsideration of portions of the R&O, and these are also active and will likely be resolved in conjunctions with the FCC’s actions on the FNPRM.)

A third auction will involve the 3.5 GHZ Band (3550-3700 MHZ).  At its October 24, 2017, Open Meeting the FCC will consider a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in GN Docket No. 17-258 to take steps necessary to make the spectrum available, to set the license areas, to set the license term, etc.   A draft of the NPRM was released October 3, 2017.  Assuming the FCC adopts the NPRM, Comments will be due 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register (and Rely Comments will be due 60 days after that publication).

Finally, like many other nations, the FCC is beginning to focus on spectrum between 3.7 and 24GHZ.  In a draft Notice of Inquiry (NoI) released August 3, 2017 (GN Docket No. 17-183), the FCC sought detailed comments on three specific bands:  3.7-4.2 GHZ; 5.925-6.425 GHZ; and, 6.425-7.125 GHZ (although at also seeks comments on any of the spectrum between 3.7 and 24 GHZ).  Comments were filed October 2, 2017.  Reply comments are due November 1, 2017.  This proceeding is in the very early stages, but it has already received the attention of significant entities, so interest is high.

The attorneys at Kitchens New Cleghorn have the experience to help you understand these matters and to help you participate in these auctions if they are right for you.  Just call us at 678-244-2880.  We can provide you with some preliminary information to help you determine if and how you might like to proceed. 

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