June 20, 2018 - 1:45 pm
By Ajit Pai | FCC Chairman

The World Cup kicked off a week ago, and defending champion Germany’s upset loss in its opening match against Mexico reminded us that past victories do not guarantee future success.  The principle that we can’t afford to rest on our laurels applies to the FCC’s work as well.  Nowhere is this more evident than in our efforts to promote U.S. leadership in the next generation of wireless technology or 5G.

The United States set the pace globally in the deployment of 4G LTE networks.  A key reason why was the Commission’s aggressive moves to free up spectrum for mobile broadband.  When it comes to 5G, we need to keep the playbook fresh and forward leaning.  So at our July meeting, the FCC will take another step to ensure that America continues to lead the world in mobile innovation.

Our spectrum strategy calls for making low-band, mid-band, and high-band airwaves available for flexible use.  Over the past few months, we’ve put that effort front and center.  In June, for example, we moved again on high-band spectrum: We finalized rules for use of the 24 GHz band, made progress on final rules for the lower 37 GHz band, and proposed to free up even more spectrum for flexible wireless use in both the 26 GHz and 42 GHz bands.  And in May, we launched a proceeding to allow more effective use of a wide swath of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. 

Now, headlining the agenda at the FCC’s July meeting is a proposal to make more intensive use of mid-band spectrum from 3.7 to 4.2 GHz, commonly called the C-band.  Other countries are looking at this spectrum neighborhood as a prime resource for deploying 5G, and the United States is moving forward here as well.  In response to a Notice of Inquiry we initiated last summer, stakeholders have come up with a number of creative ideas for making better use of 3.7 to 4.2 GHz.  And next month, we’ll vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks more detailed feedback on those ideas that merit further exploration.  That Notice of Inquiry also sought comment on new uses in the 6 GHz band.  I’m pleased to say that we plan to move forward with a rulemaking on that spectrum this fall.

Another area in which the FCC has made substantial progress but must not stand still is emergency alerting. The false missile alert issued in Hawaii earlier this year exposed problems with the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts system. The Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau launched an investigation to identify what went wrong in Hawaii and how to prevent or mitigate similar problems in the future. Building on the Bureau’s recommendations, we will vote on July 12 on an order and proposed rules designed to stop and correct false emergency alerts. The order would enable state and local officials to conduct more effective Emergency Alert System testing and public outreach, which can better prepare officials and their communities for actual emergencies. And the proposal would invite public input on specific ways to help guard against and address false emergency alerts and to help ensure the reliable delivery of wireless emergency alerts to subscribers’ phones.

The FCC’s work to review our policies and make updates and improvements where necessary is an ongoing, across-the-board effort. For instance, two months into my Chairmanship, the Commission voted to reform our rules governing commercial cellular service, which were first adopted in 1981. These changes enabled the use of 800 MHz Cellular spectrum for mobile broadband services, such as LTE.  At our July meeting, we’ll follow up with further streamlining and modernization of our rules for that spectrum band and for certain other wireless licensees.

Speaking of modernization, one of our biggest efforts to update the Commission’s rules has been our Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative. In the latest action to come out of the MMRI, the FCC will begin to review our children’s programming rules.  These rules impose programming mandates on broadcast television stations (and only broadcast television stations).  Commissioner O’Rielly has developed a number of proposals for updating these regulations to better match today’s video marketplace.  As the father of two young children, I know firsthand that the way kids watch video programming these days is very different than when I was growing up.  But our children’s television rules haven’t kept up with the times. That’s why Commissioner O’Rielly is leading the effort to address this problem.  You can read more about his approach to this issue here and here.

Another set of regulations hasn’t kept pace with technology: our rules regarding number portability. Giving consumers the power to keep their phone numbers when they switch carriers has been great for consumers and businesses alike. It’s also helped foster a competitive marketplace.  But while you can keep your number when changing service providers and moving locally, you can’t necessarily keep your number when you move farther away. Fixing this problem isn’t simple, but we’ll vote on July 12 on preliminary steps to achieving nationwide number portability. These changes are pretty technical. Among other things, the FCC would give carriers greater flexibility in how they route calls and would forbear from applying outdated dialing parity rules to competitive carriers.  But they’re the first steps on the road toward the important destination of nationwide number portability.

We’ll have one final vote—this one focused on improving our internal processes. On tap is an order that would create a uniform set of procedural rules for formal complaint proceedings administered by our Enforcement Bureau. This item would streamline and consolidate rules for processing complaints regarding pole attachments, disability access, and other topics. And as a good-government measure, we would apply a shot clock for Commission action on all formal complaints. This would ensure that these complaints are resolved in a reasonable amount of time.

When the Commission convenes for its next meeting on July 12, four teams will remain in contention for the World Cup championship. We don’t know which four teams those will be, although we do know that the United States, unfortunately, won’t be one of them. But when it comes to 5G, it’s imperative that we remain at the front of the pack. That’s why the FCC is focused on winning the 5G future through smart spectrum and infrastructure policies and why we’ll advance American leadership in 5G at our July meeting.