FCC Denies Petitions for Stay of New 6 GHz Rules
Thursday, August 13, 2020 | Comments

The FCC denied petitions from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) asking for a stay of the FCC’s new rules allowing unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band.

In May, the FCC approved new rules allowing unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band despite concerns from public safety and utilities that such access could lead to interference to critical communications.

Under the rules, standard-power access points will operate under an automated frequency control (AFC) system that the FCC said will prevent interference to critical communications operations. For low power devices, the FCC deemed an AFC was not necessary but put rules into place that limit low-power access points only at indoor locations across the band.

Following the approval of the rules, APCO filed petitions for reconsideration of the rules and for a stay of the rules until the petition of reconsideration could be considered. EEI also filed a petition for a stay but only specifically of the rules applying to low-power devices.

In addition to the petitions with the FCC, several organizations including APCO, EEI, AT&T and the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) have filed petitions for review with an appeals court. EEI and APCO sought stays of the rules while the legal actions move forward.

In its petition for a stay, EEI argued that the rules conflict with the Communications Act and the commission’s rules by not requiring use of an AFC system given that the record shows that harmful interference will occur. The EEI also argued that the order implementing the new rules improperly modified its members’ licenses under the Communications Act and was “arbitrary and capricious” by permitting low-power indoor devices that will interfere with incumbent licensed uses.

Meanwhile, APCO argued that the FCC failed to adequately address public safety’s concerns that the rules will not prevent harmful interference and did not establish location-accuracy requirements for standard power access points that would enable AFC systems to define exclusion zones. APCO also argued that the AFC requirement should extend to low-power indoor devices because the order did not include sufficient measures to keep those devices indoors. Finally, APCO said that the FCC had failed to address how sources of interference will be identified and eliminated.

The FCC noted that when considering whether to stay a matter, it considers whether or not an entity is likely to succeed on the merits of its argument. The FCC said that EEI and APCO had both failed to show that they would succeed on the merits.

“The commission addressed and discussed in detail several of the petitioners’ concerns in the order,” the FCC said. “We also note that courts accord the commission’s technical judgments great deference. Taken together we find that neither petitioner has met its burden of demonstrating that it is likely to succeed on the merits.”

Additionally, the FCC said that when requesting a stay, petitioners have to show that their members will experience irreparable harm, which the commission determined neither had done.

The FCC described both parties’ arguments that the new rules would cause harmful interference as speculative. The FCC said that it had thoroughly examined all of the studies and information submitted.

“While there were some studies included in the record that purport to show that harmful interference will occur, the commission concluded that these studies have shortcomings or are flawed and unreliable so as not to be persuasive,” the FCC said.

The FCC said that while it determined the claims speculative, it is not trying to downplay the significance of public-safety and utility microwave links in the band but argued that its extensive analysis had shown that there is a “lack of significant potential for harmful interference.”

The FCC argued that neither petitioner showed that putting a stay on the new rules would not harm any other parties. EEI and APCO argued that granting a stay would maintain the status quo and APCO said that the order was not intended to end an existing harm. EEI also argued that the stay would not cause harm because if the legality of the rules are upheld some business plans would be delayed but not destroyed.

The FCC pointed to comments from parties such as Apple and Broadcom that said before they can bring products for the spectrum to the market, manufacturers must obtain rules interpretations from the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology and develop test procedures. The companies argued that with a stay of the rules, that process would be disrupted and companies would be discouraged from making investments in developing 6 GHz products and companies that had already made investments in developing products for the band would be delayed from receiving the benefit of the investment.

The commission also argued that a delay would harm consumers because the band is being made accessible to unlicensed devices to satisfy additional demand for network capacity.

Finally, the FCC determined that granting a stay would not be in the public interest.

“A stay is not necessary to protect the fixed microwave operations of public-safety agencies and utilities,” the FCC said. “In making spectrum available for unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band, the commission made clear that its rules for 6 GHz unlicensed operations have been designed to ensure that licensed incumbent operations are protected from harmful interference to deliver high-value mission-critical services — including from public safety and utilities — on which Americans rely.

In a tweet, APCO Government Relations expressed its disapointment in the FCC's decision.

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Comments
On 8/19/20, Robert VanBuhler said:
This is a foolish move on the part of the FCC. 6 GHz systems worth 100K plus are built on the security provided by thorough frequency coordination by all licensed users. Like all unlicensed applications this will release a flurry of interference complaints and transmission errors on critical systems both commercial and public safety.

On 8/19/20, Mike Davis said:
I saw this come up in my news feed yesterday and this seem to all relate.

https www.theverge.com 2020 8 17 21372797 google-fcc-test-6ghz-network-17-states


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