Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
On October 25, 2018, President Donald Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum ordering federal agencies to review their existing spectrum usage, forecast future demands, and prepare a plan for research and development that will enable better use of spectrum in the future.
Is our practice of dumping the proceeds from the privatization of the public airwaves into the federal treasury, as is now routinely done, the best use of this precious public resource? No. The nation should dedicate a sizable share of spectrum auction proceeds to closing these digital equity gaps and should establish a reliable, proven vehicle to pursue this task. An endowed, independent, and private charitable foundation would best have the flexibility, research focus, long-term time perspective, and ability to engage other partners that such a mission will require.
Concerns about the 5.9 GHz band came up again during a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg gave testimony. But that wasn’t all. Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reiterated his concerns about potential interference from 5G in the C-band – the very band where the likes of Verizon and AT&T just pledged over $80 billion for access to airwaves for 5G.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) is currently on an unsustainable financial path, funded by a regressive surcharge on a shrinking base of telephone customers. If it isn’t fixed, and fixed quickly, the fund won’t be able to meet its mandate and fulfill its connectivity promise – not just to the next generation, but to the current one. So how do we fix USF?
The Federal Communications Commission took action to make valuable mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for auction to facilitate 5G deployment across the contiguous US. 2020’s Consolidated Appropriations Act required the FCC to commence a system of competitive bidding for licenses in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band by the end of 2021.
The Federal Communications Commission adopted a Public Notice seeking comment on procedures for the auction of 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.45–3.55 GHz band that can be used to facilitate 5G deployment across the contiguous US. Bidding in Auction 110 is expected to begin in early Oct 2021. This Public Notice works in concert with new rules for the 3.45 GHz band that were also adopted March 17, establishing a framework for coordination of non-federal and federal use and establishing a band plan.
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr detailed his plan to extend US leadership in 5G at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. Highlights of Commissioner Carr’s plan:
Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T held events to update investors and analysts on spectrum auction results, and laid out plans for expanding their 5G networks. There is "no question" the carriers' new spectrum holdings will improve consumers' experience of using 5G, said Craig Moffett, founding partner and analyst at MoffettNathanson. But the carriers largely expect it will take several years to put the new spectrum to use. This spectrum auction helps the carriers, especially AT&T and Verizon, fill a key gap in their 5G networks.
Cellphone carriers that spent years promoting their blueprints for new fifth-generation wireless networks devoted the past week to explaining how they plan to pay for them. AT&T and Verizon said they would spend billions of dollars more in the coming years on cellular-tower equipment, fiber-optic lines, and other infrastructure to use new wireless spectrum licenses they acquired through a federal government auction. T-Mobile said it would put the new licenses to use without increasing its capital budget.