FCC Puts a Stay on Implementation of 4.9 GHz Leasing Framework
Friday, May 28, 2021 | Comments

The FCC granted a petition for a stay of the implementation of its new framework for the 4.9 GHz band requested by the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA).

“The Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) would like to thank the Federal Communications Commission for its recent decision to stay its September 30, 2020 order removing 50 MHz of the 4.9 GHz band from exclusive public safety use,” the PSSA said in a statement. “In particular, the PSSA commends Acting Chairwomen Jessica Rosenworcel for her leadership and support in helping preserve the 4.9 GHz spectrum for the public safety community. This spectrum is vital to public safety not only to help ensure nationwide interoperability, but to facilitate the introduction of new 5G capabilities into the public-safety communications ecosystem.”

Last September, the FCC approved new rules that would allow eligible states to lease some or all of the spectrum in the band to commercial or critical infrastructure entities. Before the approval of the rules, the band had been dedicated to public-safety use, but for many years, the FCC had looked at new ways to increase use of what it described as an underused band.

Many public-safety organizations, including the PSSA, came out against the proposal, arguing that the band should continue to be dedicated to public-safety use. The PSSA, in particular advocated for the FCC to give the band to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) to help serve first responders’ future spectrum needs.

The PSSA, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Coalition (NPSTC) all filed petitions for reconsideration of the new rules. Those petitions argued that the new leasing framework would undermine the availability and utility of spectrum in the band for public-safety operations. The petitions also described the rules as “arbitrary and capricious” because they lacked a basis in the record the FCC compiled for the proceeding.

While the changes to the FCC’s rules became effective December 30. Under the rules, each state must designate a state lessor and that will not become effective until the commission receives approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act. After that approval, it will announce an effective date. The FCC has not yet announced an effective date for the final rule, so the leasing framework has not yet begun.

The FCC concluded that a stay of the 4.9 GHz leasing framework is appropriate.

“Specifically, we believe that in light of the serious questions posed by the petitions for reconsideration, the possibility of irreparable harm to current and future public-safety users of the 4.9 GHz band and to our goal of facilitating greater use of this spectrum, the extent to which a stay will further the public interest, and the fact that no parties will be injured if a stay is granted, a stay is appropriate to permit the commission to address the issues raised in the petitions for reconsideration.”

Commissioner Brendan Carr released a dissenting statement to the order. In that statement, he expressed disappointment in the order.

“In the 4.9 GHz band, it was clear that the status quo was not working,” Carr said. “After almost two decades, that 50 megahertz swath of spectrum remained woefully underutilized. So, we established a framework that could allow more intensive uses to flourish, including for public safety, by empowering local leaders to determine the best options for this spectrum based on their own circumstances. … This is the spectrum equivalent of taking points off the board. While I am dissenting from today’s decision, I remain hopeful that we can find a way to quickly put a beneficial framework back in place. And, I am open to working with my colleagues, the public-safety community and all other stakeholders on doing exactly that.”

Find the full order here.

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