6/19 Nonprofit Coalition Letter Urges FCC to Reject Cellular Industry Effort to Upend Historic Spectrum Sharing Framework

Regulatory/Legislative Filings
June 19, 2017

Today a broad-based coalition of nonprofit groups filed a letter calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject a proposal from the cellular industry, filed by CTIA on Friday, to re-open and revise the rules finalized more than a year ago for a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) that opens a large frequency band of unused Navy spectrum for small area, high-capacity broadband innovation.

The coalition represents consumers, public institutions and small business users of broadband, and includes the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, Next Century Cities, Engine, the R Street Institute, the American Library Association and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. 

The coalition asks the FCC to instead move rapidly to complete implementation of this historic innovation in spectrum policy, which opens unused military spectrum for sharing with Priority Access Licenses that are available for small areas (census tracts) and short terms, thereby making them more useful and affordable to smaller operators and to venues for indoor use. 

The Citizens Band represents a unique experiment that opens military spectrum for shared use, using a sensing network and geolocation database to protect the shipborne Navy radars from interference. A unanimous Commission initially adopted its innovative CBRS spectrum-sharing Order in 2015. 

The FCC finalized the issue more than a year ago, when the commissioners again voted 5 – 0 to adopt further rules, resolve petitions for reconsideration, and task industry stakeholders to develop a consensus on technical standards that includes Spectrum Access Systems capable of coordinating dynamic sharing, and a coastal sensing network capable of protecting U.S. Navy operations from harmful interference.

“CTIA is once again trying to ensure that licenses are too large and too expensive for anyone but the big incumbent cellular carriers,” said Michael Calabrese, who directs the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute. “With consumers and so many other companies poised to benefit, it is deeply disappointing that the FCC might even consider such a fundamental change so obviously aimed at stifling wireless competition and innovation.”

“The CBRS framework allows even the smallest rural operators, market entrants and individual venues to access this small cell spectrum to pioneer or implement innovative new services,” the letter states.

As examples, the coalition letter describes deployments of affordable and high-capacity rural broadband networks, private “neutral host” LTE networks that offer seamless, high-bandwidth connectivity for customers of any cellular carrier inside venues, as well as a NASCAR virtual reality zone demonstrated at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.