FCC to Vote on CBRS Rule Changes with County-Size Licenses This Month
Monday, October 08, 2018 | Comments

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly outlined changes to the FCC’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) that the full commission will vote on Oct. 23.

O’Rielly proposed lengthening priority access license (PAL) terms, modestly increasing the geographic license sizes, permitting licenses to be renewed, and resolving concerns about certain power emission levels and what information will be publicly available from the approved databases.

“Debate over the geographic license size of the PALs has been the most contentious change contemplated to the past rules,” he said in an article.

While larger providers sought extremely large licenses, smaller entities — including critical infrastructure industries (CII) entities — wanted to preserve small license sizes, allocated by census tracts.

“In the end, I am proposing to modify our rules to permit county-size licenses with the possibility for combinatorial bidding in the largest markets, which I believe is a well-balanced approach addressing all legitimate concerns,” he said. “No one is likely to be entirely pleased with this outcome, but it achieves a sound and just result.”

O’Rielly said census tract licenses in the CBRS band are not feasible. “First, the FCC has never auctioned that many licenses in its history and actually doesn’t have the capability to do so today,” he said. “Second, the push for census tracts was not rooted in the desire to serve rural communities, as some would like the public to believe. Instead, it was mostly based in a desire to only serve small slices of large cities, such as industrial parks or ports, or suburban markets. Worse yet, some small providers just wanted to obtain licenses with the hopes of forcing bigger providers to purchase them on the secondary market at inflated prices. Creating government-sanctioned middlemen is not appropriate.”

Third, he said the cable industry, small wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and rural mobile providers are supportive of county licenses. He did not mention CII entities. He also said the CBRS spectrum band is going to be the quickest and most appropriate band to initiate mid-band 5G services in the United States.

“Given its importance to ensure U.S. mobile providers maintain their global superiority and leadership, it is imperative that our auction design not purposefully keep them from participating and winning licenses, as the commission’s current rules would do,” he said.

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