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Amendment of the Commission’s Rules with Regard to Commercial Operations in the
3550-3650 MHz Band
, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN Docket No. 12-354
There are some who say that – like oil and water – regulation and innovation just don't
mix. All too often, they contend, regulation effectively protects incumbents and stifles innovation
by creating barriers to entry for new entrants and disruptive technologies.
This proceeding, which builds upon recommendations in the July 2012 PCAST Report,
offers a possible rebuttal to that position. It clearly shows the federal government understands
that technological advances can enable us to depart from traditional regulatory models and adopt
new approaches, with lower administrative costs, which could spur even greater innovation from
incumbent carriers, and new entrants. Because repurposing federal spectrum for commercial use
can take years, and the country’s demand for mobile broadband services will not wait that long,
the PCAST Report recommended that commercial services share underutilized federal spectrum
to the maximum extent possible. The advances in small cell networks and the concepts in the
successful TV White Space databases, make that degree of spectrum sharing possible.
So, in 2012, we adopted an NPRM that proposed new spectrum management concepts
with a license by rule framework which would provide for Incumbent Access, Priority Access,
and General Authorized Access tiers. We proposed a highly flexible band plan to facilitate rapid
broadband deployment while protecting existing federal and commercial incumbent users in the
3.5 Gigahertz band. That NPRM also improved on the PCAST recommendation by including the
3650 to 3700 megahertz band. This band is used extensively by wireless Internet service
providers, or WISPs, to provide broadband in rural and other underserved areas.
This Further Notice brings even more creativity to the proceeding, by revising the
licensing framework, in order to incentivize more efficient use of the Priority Access tier. Instead
of licensing that tier to only certain institutions by rule, we propose to expand the eligibility to all
entities and establish granular flexible Priority Access Licenses that would amount to a 10
megahertz license, for one census tract, for one year that can be aggregated. If more than one
entity wants the same license for the same year, there will be an auction. Although these licenses
would have some of the key features of traditional FCC licenses, such as exclusive spectrum
rights, because they are shorter in duration, they would not have other features, such as
performance requirements. The goal is to establish a license, with lower administrative costs, that
would allow for micro-targeted network deployments; and easy aggregation, to serve a larger
footprint for a longer period of time.
By enabling aggregation, this framework would allow for the type of predictability that
would attract larger carriers, to invest in equipment for the band. Because we also propose to
require interoperability across all three tiers throughout the 150 megahertz in the band, this
approach has the added benefit of bringing greater spectrum availability and equipment scale
economies to WISPs, new entrants, and small businesses who want to provide service in the band.
I want to thank Roger Sherman, Julie Knapp, and the staffs of the Wireless Bureau, OET
and International Bureau, and my legal advisor, Louis Peraertz, for their hard work on this item
and their contributions throughout this proceeding.

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