TR Daily FCC Releases Seven-Item Agenda for Oct. 23 Meeting
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

FCC Releases Seven-Item Agenda for Oct. 23 Meeting

The FCC today released a seven-item agenda for its Oct. 23 meeting, including a 3.5 gigahertz band order and a notice of proposed rulemaking proposing to free up the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use. The meeting is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.

The other items are a report and order, further notice, and second further notice updating the agency’s business data services (BDS) rules; a report and order and order concerning 800 megahertz band private land mobile radio spectrum; a further notice and report and order on whether the FCC should modify its cable rate regulatory regime; a report and order that would end the mandate that broadcasters submit paper copies of contracts to the agency; and an enforcement item.

Under the 3.5 GHz band report and order in GN docket 17-258, the FCC would increase the size of priority access licenses (PALs) from census tracts to counties, while seeking comment “in the pre-auction process on allowing package bids to facilitate bidding for the counties that comprise a complete MSA [metropolitan statistical areas] in the top 305 markets” (TR Daily, Oct. 2).

The item also would extend the length of license terms to 10 years and make them renewable, establish end-of-term performance requirements, allow rural and tribal bidding credits, permit PAL partitioning and disaggregation, protect Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) device registration information through updated security requirements while ensuring public availability of aggregate spectrum use data, and permit transmission over wide channels without significant reductions in power.

The item has drawn praise from CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association, and major carriers and even from entities that had urged the FCC to make PALs available via at least some census tracts, including NCTA, NTCA, and the Rural Wireless Association. But the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association has criticized the draft item, as have rural advocacy groups, health care providers, and public interest organizations.

The FCC adopted an NPRM last year seeking comments on possible changes to its PAL rules, which were adopted in 2015 (TR Daily, Oct. 24, 2017). Commissioner Mike O’Rielly has been the point person on the item.

The 6 GHz band NPRM in ET docket 18-295 would propose imposing restrictions on the deployment of unlicensed devices in the spectrum. Commercial and public safety incumbents have complained about the possibility of interference from the new entrants. The NPRM would address new unlicensed uses in the 5.925-7.125 GHz band.

A fact sheet released with the draft NPRM said it proposes “to allow unlicensed devices to operate under the Commission’s Part 15 rules only in locations and frequencies where they would not cause harmful interference to the licensed services in the band.”

It proposes “rules for two types of unlicensed devices tailored to protect incumbent services that operate in distinct parts of the 6 GHz band” under consideration by the FCC.

“In the 5.925-6.425 GHz and 6.525-6.875 GHz sub-bands, unlicensed devices would only be allowed to transmit under the control of an automated frequency control (AFC) system,” the fact sheet said. “These frequencies are heavily used by point-to-point microwave links and some fixed satellite systems. The AFC system would identify frequencies on which unlicensed devices could operate without causing harmful interference to fixed point-to-point microwave receivers.”

“In the 6.425-6.525 GHz and 6.875-7.125 GHz sub-bands, unlicensed devices would be restricted to indoor use and would operate at lower power, without an AFC system,” the fact sheet added. “These frequencies are used for mobile services, such as the Broadcast Auxiliary Service and Cable Television Relay Service, as well as fixed and fixed satellite services. The itinerant nature of the mobile services makes the use of an AFC system impractical.”

“The combination of lower power and indoor operations would protect licensed services operating on these frequencies from harmful interference,” the FCC added.

The Commission last year adopted a notice of inquiry in its mid-band proceeding that included spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz and 6 GHz bands (TR Daily, Aug. 3, 2017).

Several Wi-Fi advocates praised the draft item, but some incumbent representatives were less positive.

As for the BDS proceeding, the FCC adopted an NPRM in the docket in April (TR Daily, April 17) that sought input on a proposal to allow rate-of-return (RoR) carriers that receive high-cost support under the Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) to move to price cap regulation for their lower speed time-division multiplexing (TDM) BDS transport and end user channel termination offerings.

The April NPRM also sought comment on the elimination of ex ante pricing regulation for A-CAM carriers’ packet-based and higher-speed TDM BDS. It seeks comment on designing a competitive market test “to determine where competition is available and whether there should be further relief from ex ante pricing rules for lower-speed TDM BDS in areas deemed competitive,” according to an FCC press release. It also proposes allowing other rate-of-return carriers to opt into price cap regulation under the rules for A-CAM carriers.

The draft report and order in WC dockets 17-144 and 05-25 on the agenda for Oct. 23 would “provide an opportunity for rate-of-return carriers receiving model-based or other fixed high-cost universal service support to elect to move their lower speed (DS3 and below) TDM-based business data services to incentive regulation,” according to an FCC fact sheet.

The draft order would also “relieve electing carriers’ lower speed TDM-based end user channel terminations of ex ante pricing regulation in areas deemed competitive by a competitive market test”; “eliminate ex ante pricing regulation of electing carriers’ higher speed TDM-based business data services (above a DS3) and their packet-based business data services”; and “forbear from requiring electing carriers to comply with tariffing, cost assignment and jurisdictional separations requirements.”

An accompanying second further notice would, in accordance to a remand by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (St. Louis), “propose to eliminate ex ante pricing regulation of price cap carriers’ TDM-based transport services.”

The Eighth Circuit upheld most of the FCC’s 2017 BDS order while vacating for lack of adequate notice provisions that dealt with legacy TDM transport services (TR Daily, Aug. 28).

Finally, a draft FNPRM in the agenda’s BDS item would “seek comment on the appropriate regulatory treatment of electing carriers’ TDM-based transport services.”

In the 800 MHz band report and order and order in WP dockets 15-32 and 16-261, the FCC would (1) “[a]dd 318 new interstitial channels in the 800 MHz Mid-Band, the portion of the 800 MHz band used most extensively for PLMR”; (2) “[d]irect Commission staff to announce when applications for 800 MHz Expansion Band, Guard Band, Sprint-vacated, and interstitial channels may be filed in the 44 of 55 National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee regions where 800 MHz rebanding has been completed”; (3) “[d]ecline to give incumbent 800 MHz licensees filing priority for 800 MHz Expansion Band and Guard Band over non-incumbents after such an announcement”; (4) “[t]erminate the 1995 freeze on inter-category sharing of 800 MHz channels, making it no longer necessary for applicants to seek a waiver of the freeze”; (5) “[m]ake available new 450-470 MHz Industrial/Business Pool channels in gaps located between Industrial/Business Pool spectrum and spectrum designated for other services”; (6) “[a]uthorize trackside boosters on PLMR railroad channels to facilitate communication between the front and rear of trains where direct communication is unsatisfactory because of the length of the train or intervening terrain”; (7) “[e]xtend conditional licensing to PLMR stations that operate in the 700 MHz public safety narrowband and the 800 MHz band”; and (8) “[m]ake underused Central Station Alarm channels available for other PLMR purposes provided that the Central Station Alarm frequency coordinator concurs,” a fact sheet noted.

FCC action on the issues has been years in the making and long sought by the PLMR community.

The FCC also plans to consider two items as part of its initiative to modernize its media rules.

One is a draft cable rate regulation FNPRM and report and order in MB dockets 17-105 and 02-144, MM dockets 92-266 and 93-215, and CS dockets 94-28 and 96-157.

The draft FNPRM would seek comment on whether to replace the agency’s existing rate-regulation framework with “a new and simple methodology,” an FCC fact sheet on the item said. “Alternatively,” it would “seek comment on changes to our existing rate regulation rules, including whether to deregulate rates charged for equipment used to receive a cable programming service tier, rates charged by small systems owned by small cable operators, and rates charged for service to commercial subscribers,” it added.

The draft FNPRM would also seek comment on “whether to eliminate dated and unnecessary forms, as well as simplify how cable operators set initial regulated rates and re-calculate rates when services or costs change.”

The draft order would “eliminate or revise rules that have expired or become obsolete or unnecessary and close a dormant docket.”

The second media item in MB dockets 18-4 and 17-105 is a report and order that would eliminate the mandate that broadcasters routinely file paper copies of contracts and other documents with the Commission.

The FCC won’t provide details on the enforcement action until it votes on the item. —Paul Kirby, [email protected], and Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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