STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI
APPROVING IN PART AND CONCURRING IN PART
Amendment of the Commission's Rules with Regard to Commercial Operations in the 1695
1710 MHz, 17551780 MHz, and 21552180 MHz Bands
, GN Docket No. 13-185
When it comes to spectrum, supply is short, and demand is long. One reason is that the federal
government is the sole occupant of 588.5 MHz of spectrum ideally suited for mobile broadband and
controls another 885.5 MHz of spectrum that's shared by federal users and the private sector.1 In other
words, 61.4 percent of the spectrum between 600 MHz and 3 GHz is insulated from market forces and
can't be used to meet consumers' ever-increasing demand for data.
Fortunately, Congress foresaw this situation and gave the Commission two powerful tools to
solve the problem. The first is the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act of 2004,2 which allows the
proceeds of a spectrum auction to pay for the relocation of incumbent federal users. That authority was
used to great success seven years ago, when we cleared federal users out of the 17101755 MHz band and
created the AWS-1 band, which has been used by carriers to deploy 4G LTE services throughout the
United States. And that auction was a boon to the Treasury to boot; the National Broadband Plan
estimated that net revenues from clearing and auctioning the band were "nearly $6 billion."3
The second is the Spectrum Act of 2012, which directed the FCC to allocate and license 65 MHz
of spectrum for commercial use by February 2015.4 The Spectrum Act built on the Commercial
Spectrum Enhancement Act, and while it allowed more flexibility for sharing spectrum between federal
and commercial users, it codified Congress's strong preference for clearing and reallocating spectrum.
Indeed, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration must "give priority" to
clearing and reallocation and may pursue a sharing strategy only if, in consultation with the Office of
Management and Budget, it determines that "relocation of a Federal entity from the band is not feasible
because of technical or cost constraints."5
Today we follow through on our responsibilities under these statutes by proposing service rules
for several bands, including the critically important 17551780 MHz band. I say critically important
because this band, when paired with the 21552180 MHz band that the Spectrum Act requires us to
auction by February 2015, will be crucial to making 4G LTE services available to millions of Americans
and making the promise of the National Broadband Plan a reality. It's already internationally harmonized
for commercial use, so deployment will be quicker than any other band, and its adjacency to the existing
AWS-1 band allows for more efficient spectrum usage.
Although I cannot support every proposal in today's Notice, I am especially pleased that my
colleagues were willing to incorporate my proposals to ensure that if clearing the 17551780 MHz band is
1 National Telecommunications and Information Administration, United States Frequency Allocations: The Radio
Spectrum (Aug. 2011) (denoting spectrum allocated for "government exclusive" use, "non-government exclusive"
use, and "government/non-government shared" use).
2 Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act, Pub. L. No. 108-494, 118 Stat. 3986, Title II (2004).
3 FCC, Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan at 82 (2010), available at
4 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-96, 126 Stat. 156, Title VI (2012).
5 Spectrum Act 6701(a)(1)(B) (amending section 113(j) of the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration Organization Act (47 U.S.C. 923)); see also id.
(entitling such subsection "Relocation Prioritized
Over Sharing"); Spectrum Act 6401(a) (entitled "Clearing Certain Federal Spectrum").
feasible, we can move forward with relocation and exclusive commercial use there. Not only is clearing
the bipartisan legislative preference, it just makes sense. The fewer impairments, exclusion zones, and
complicated sharing arrangements there are, the more valuable the spectrum will be, especially for
regional carriers that are unlikely to have the wherewithal to coordinate their use with potentially
hundreds of federal users.
A coda to today's Notice. When the Commission commenced the notice-and-auction process of
the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act back in March,6 I reiterated my belief that "we should aim to
clear and reallocate the 17551780 MHz band rather than forcing federal users and commercial operators
to undertake the complicated, untested task of spectrum sharing."7 Although some at the time suggested
large-scale clearing was impossible, I was pleased to see recent correspondence from the Chief
Information Officer of the Department of Defense putting reallocation and auction of the 17551780
MHz band "in the near-term" on the table.8 This recognition--that relocating some operations and
compressing most others into existing federal spectrum is feasible at a total cost of only $3.5 billion--is a
tremendous step in the right direction.9 I commend the Department of Defense for working towards a
solution that will serve federal and consumer interests alike.
6 Letter from Julius Genachowksi, Chairman, FCC, to Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for
Communications and Information, U.S. Department of Commerce, at 1 (Mar. 20, 2013), available at
7 Statement of Commissioner Ajit Pai on Commencement of the Process to Auction 17551780 MHz Band (Mar.
21, 2013), available at http://go.usa.gov/jkT9
8 Letter from Teresa M. Takai, Chief Information Officer, Department of Defense, to the Honorable Lawrence E.
Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, National Telecommunications and Information
Administration, at 1 (July 17, 2013), available at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7520932630