Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Adopts New Rules To Increase Use Of 4.9 GHz Spectrum Band, USDA Rural Broadband Grant In Indiana, FCC Announces Agenda for October Open Meeting
FCC Adopts New Rules To Increase Use Of 4.9 GHz Spectrum Band
The FCC adopted rules permitting expanded use of 50 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) band that is currently underused. Under the new rules, states are allowed to lease this spectrum to third parties to boost wireless broadband, improve critical infrastructure monitoring, and facilitate public safety use cases. This will allow individual states to use the spectrum to best meet their unique needs.
The Report and Order permits one statewide 4.9 GHz band licensee per state to lease some or all of its spectrum rights to third parties—including commercial and public safety users—in those states that the FCC has not identified as a diverter of 911 fees. The Report and Order does not limit or modify the rights of any incumbent public safety licensees, so they will be able to continue to provide existing services. These new rules also eliminate the requirement that leased spectrum must be used to support public safety but would require lessees to adhere to the informal coordination requirements applicable to the band.
The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking portion of the document proposes a new state-based licensing regime for public safety operations in the band; proposes to make permanent the current freeze on new applications and to grandfather all current public safety licensees; and to allow states without a statewide license to obtain such a license. It seeks comment on: the creation of a voluntary state band manager to coordinate operations in the band; and additional ways to implement and facilitate robust use of the band, including steps to address expanded access in states that divert 911 fees, the use of dynamic spectrum sharing, and ways to encourage collaboration across jurisdictions.
In the 18 years since the FCC designated the 4.9 GHz band for public safety use, only about 3.5% of all potential licensees have taken advantage of this spectrum opportunity, and this spectrum remains largely unused outside major metropolitan areas. The new rules establish a new framework that will empower eligible states to put 4.9 GHz band spectrum to its highest and best use and to allow new partnerships with electric utilities, FirstNet, and commercial operators to increase usage of this spectrum, while protecting existing public safety operations.
USDA Rural Broadband Grant In Indiana
The USDA announced it is investing nearly $4 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Indiana. Specifically, Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation will use a $1.9 million loan and a $1.9 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 4,881 people, 198 farms and 36 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Indiana’s Jackson and Lawrence counties.
“I’m so glad to see this investment in infrastructure in my home state of Indiana,” said USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney. “In my conversations with our overseas trading partners, we often speak about the important role of innovation to global agriculture. But innovation depends on access to reliable, high-speed internet. I’m hopeful that investments such as ReConnect can help farmers operate more effectively and efficiently to deliver their products to those across Indiana – and, indeed, across the world.”
FCC Announces Agenda for October Open Meeting
The FCC has announced the tentative agenda for its October Open Commission Meeting scheduled for October 27, 2020. Some of the telecom-related items up for consideration are listed below.
- Restoring Internet Freedom Order Remand – The FCC will consider an Order that would respond to the remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and conclude that the Restoring Internet Freedom Order promotes public safety, facilitates broadband infrastructure deployment, and allows the FCC to continue to provide Lifeline support for broadband Internet access service.
- Establishing a 5G Fund for Rural America – The FCC will consider a Report and Order that would establish the 5G Fund for Rural America to ensure that all Americans have access to the next generation of wireless connectivity.
- Increasing Unlicensed Wireless Opportunities in TV White Spaces – The FCC will consider a Report and Order that would increase opportunities for unlicensed white space devices to operate on broadcast television channels 2-35 and expand wireless broadband connectivity in rural and underserved areas.
- Streamlining State and Local Approval of Certain Wireless Structure Modifications – The FCC will consider a Report and Order that would further accelerate the deployment of 5G by providing that modifications to existing towers involving limited ground excavation or deployment would be subject to streamlined state and local review pursuant to section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012.
- Modernizing Unbundling and Resale Requirements – The FCC will consider a Report and Order to modernize its unbundling and resale regulations, eliminating requirements where they stifle broadband deployment and the transition to next-generation networks, but preserving them where they are still necessary to promote robust intermodal competition.
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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.