FCC’s Pai on 5G FAST Plan
At a White House event last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke about outlined the FCC’s 5G FAST Plan and the progress made so far to implement that plan. With respect to the first part of the strategy, freeing up spectrum, he noted that the FCC finished its first 5G spectrum auction in January, and is holding a second right now that’s already generated almost $2 billion in bids. The second part of the strategy is to make it easier to install wireless infrastructure, which the FCC has done by eliminating various regulations designed for tall towers that threatened to” strangle our 5G future in red tape. We’ve eliminated these rules, because infrastructure the size of a pizza box shouldn’t have to jump through the same regulatory hoops as a 200-foot tower.” Finally, the FCC has taken action to encourage the deployment of optical fiber by ending certain legacy regulations that impeded deployment. He also announced two new steps: the start of a third 5G spectrum auction on December 10 of this year and his intention to create a new $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund which would extend high-speed broadband to up to four million homes and small businesses in rural America. Funding would be provided through a reverse auction to service providers that will deploy infrastructure that will provide up to gigabit-speed broadband. A related Fact Sheet explains these accomplishments and plans in more detail.
The Regulatory Mix Today: FCC’s Pai on 5G FAST Plan, FCC Rate Floor Rule Repeal, FCC Eliminates Some Separate Subsidiary Requirements, FCC Cable Channel Lineup Rules, FCC Millimeter Wave Spectrum, FCC 5G Spectrum Auction, FCC OTARD Rule
FCC Rate Floor Rule Repeal
At its April Open Meeting the FCC voted to eliminate the so-called rate floor rule. The rule was intended to limit USF support received by rural carriers whose rates are below a set minimum rate. However, the practical effect of the rate floor has been to artificially raise telephone rates for many rural Americans. Absent action by the FCC, the rate floor was scheduled to rise from $18 to $26.98 on July 1,nearly a 50% increase for rural consumers. The FCC said its action was consistent with its statutory responsibility to ensure that rural consumers receive quality services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates, and that rural carriers continue to receive the predictable and sufficient universal service support needed to serve high-cost areas.
FCC Eliminates Some Separate Subsidiary Requirements
At its April Open Meeting the FCC also voted to forbear from enforcing certain provisions of the Communications Act aimed at encouraging local competition. Finding that the marketplace has transformed since 1996 such that the rules are no longer need to protect the public interest, the FCC decided to forbear from:
- Requiring small rule small, rural carriers set up separate affiliated companies to provide in-region long-distance service;
- Enforcing certain provisioning deadlines and the related requirement that carriers submit reports about their legacy “special access” services; and
- Enforcing the requirement that Bell companies provide nondiscriminatory access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way because this obligation is covered by Section 224 of the Communications Act.
This Order does not address USTelecom’s additional request for forbearance from statutory provisions and FCC rules related to unbundled network elements and resale. That request remains pending, and the statutory deadline for Commission action is August 2, 2019.
FCC Cable Channel Lineup Rules
The FCC voted to eliminate: (1) a rule which requires cable operators to maintain at their local office a current listing of the cable television channels that each cable system delivers to its subscribers; and (2) the requirement that certain cable operators make their channel lineup
available through their FCC -hosted online public inspection file. The FCC concluded that these requirements are unnecessary as channel lineups are readily available to consumers today through a variety of other means, including the websites of individual cable operators, third-party websites, on-screen electronic program guides, and paper guides. The FCC also noted that its rules separately require cable operators to send channel lineup information to cable subscribers at least once a year and make that information available upon request at any time.
FCC Millimeter Wave Spectrum
The FCC voted to take additional steps to make millimeter wave spectrum available for 5G, the Internet of Things, and other advanced spectrum-based services, including satellite broadband services. First, the FCC adopted rules to allow Fixed-Satellite Service earth stations to be individually licensed to transmit in the 50 GHz spectrum band, which will allow them to provide
faster, more advanced services to their customers. Second, the FCC established a coordination process to accommodate the military’s potential need for additional sites in the Upper 37 GHz band, while protecting the interests of non-Federal licensees in this band. These steps were taken in anticipation of the auction of the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz spectrum bands slated to begin later this year.
FCC 5G Spectrum Auction
The FCC also voted to seek comment on proposed application and bidding procedures for the third 5G spectrum auction (Auction 103), which will be the largest spectrum auction in US history. The auction involves airwaves in the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz spectrum bands. The Public Notice proposes to offer 100 megahertz blocks of spectrum licensed by Partial Economic Area service area. It includes proposed bidding procedures for the clock and assignment phases of the auction. The clock phase would allow bidding on generic blocks in two categories—one for 37 GHz and 39 GHz, and one for 47 GHz—in each PEA. The clock phase would serve both to determine winners of generic spectrum blocks and to determine the amount of incentive payments due to those incumbent licensees in the 39 GHz band that opt to relinquish their spectrum usage rights. The assignment phase would allow bidding for frequency-specific license assignments, while ensuring contiguous block assignments.
FCC OTARD Rule
The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to update its rule for over-the-air reception devices (OTARD) to help spur 5G deployment. Currently, the rule prohibits certain state and local restrictions that unreasonably impair the ability of users to deploy small, next-generation networking devices on their own property. However, it does not reflect the shifts in the wireless infrastructure landscape for the development of 5G networks and technologies. Therefore, the FCC is proposing to eliminate the restriction that excludes hub and relay antennas from the scope of the rule. This is intended to help spur infrastructure deployment, including in underserved rural and urban areas. The Notice seeks comment on how best to implement the proposed rule and proposes to retain an exception to the rule for safety or historic preservation purposes. Revising the regulatory framework for over-the-air reception devices would allow fixed wireless providers to deploy hub and relay antennas more quickly and efficiently and help spur investment in and deployment of needed infrastructure in a manner that is consistent with the public interest.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.