FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today that he plans to ask his fellow Commissioners to vote on six items at their Aug. 2 meeting, including procedures for auctions of 28 gigahertz and 24 GHz band spectrum; proposed rules for the 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands; a pole attachment order; proposed rules to provide TV repacking funding to low-power TV, TV translator, and FM radio stations and a telehealth notice of inquiry. Mr. Pai said the FCC also would consider an item to establish requirements for the agency’s broadcast incubator program.
In a blog posting on items that he circulated today for consideration at the Aug. 2 meeting, Mr. Pai also announced that he wants the FCC in the second half of next year to hold a single auction of the 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands.
“Leading off our August agenda will be 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity,” Mr. Pai said. “We’ll finalize the rules for the auction of airwaves in the 28 GHz band and the auction of the 24 GHz band, which will follow immediately afterward. One of the game-changers for 5G is that new technologies have made it possible to use millimeter-wave spectrum for mobile broadband. With so many wanting so much spectrum for 5G, we’re moving as quickly as possible to make these bands available for commercial use. Adopting these rules will pave the way for auctioning these 5G-critical airwaves and allow us to start the bidding on November 14.”
In April, the FCC unanimously adopted a public notice seeking comments on application and bidding procedures for the 28 GHz and 24 GHz band auctions (TR Daily, April 17).
Regarding other bands to be auctioned next year, Mr. Pai said, “I’m proposing rules to clean up the 39 GHz band and move incumbents into rationalized license holdings.” He said this would “help make the 39 GHz band as attractive as possible for new bidders, while consolidating incumbent spectrum licenses into more usable blocks. As part of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking we will consider at the FCC’s August meeting, I’m also proposing to have 100 MHz license blocks for the 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands, so they can more easily be auctioned together. These are important steps that will help solidify U.S. leadership in 5G.”
Mr. Pai also said the FCC plans to consider an NPRM seeking views on rules to implement provisions of the RAY BAUM’S Act, which became law in March (TR Daily, March 23), that “authorized the Commission to reimburse certain low power television and television translator stations, as well as FM radio stations, for costs incurred as a result of the post-incentive auction broadcast television repack. … Our goal is to provide funds efficiently while at the same time ensuring that there are robust safeguards against waste, fraud, and abuse.”
Noting the need to deploy denser small-cell infrastructure for smaller cells, Chairman Pai said he would ask his colleagues to vote on a draft order to adopt the “one-touch-make-ready” pole attachment policy developed by the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.
Under the BDAC recommendation, the new attacher would be responsible for all costs associated with attachment, including make-ready work, inspection, and damage to the existing attachment, with the exception for bringing existing attachments up to code, if they are not in compliance (TR Daily, Jan. 18). The new attacher could have all the make-ready work done in “one trip up the pole,” rather than waiting for a series of different technicians to come out and make single, sequential changes such as moving existing attachments to make room.
Chairman Pai said, “By making it quicker and cheaper to attach to poles, we can accelerate network buildout and make it easier for new entrants to provide more broadband competition. So I’ve circulated an order that would adopt this so-called ‘one-touch-make-ready’ policy while at the same time ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect existing attachments and worker safety. The order that we we’ll vote on at our August meeting also makes clear that it is contrary to Federal law for states or localities to put in place moratoria on network buildout.”
Commissioner Brendan Carr unveiled news of the $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program being teed up in a draft telehealth NOI this morning in a Jackson, Miss., “Clarion Ledger” op-ed with Senate communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee Chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.).
“This new program will aim to reduce health care costs and spending by supporting technologies to connect patients and caregivers over the internet, particularly in rural and low-income communities,” Commissioner Carr and Sen. Wicker wrote.
In his blog post today, Chairman Pai said, “Whether it’s via remote patient monitoring or mobile health apps, patients can see improved outcomes and lower costs through care that can be delivered directly to them regardless of where they’re physically located. That’s why I’ve asked Commissioner Carr to lead the FCC’s effort to explore ways the Commission can promote connected care everywhere. We’ll formalize this at our August meeting, where we’ll be considering a Notice of Inquiry that would seek comment on a Universal Service Fund pilot program to support the delivery of telehealth services to low-income Americans, with a focus on services delivered beyond brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities.”
In a press release, Commissioner Carr said that the NOI would seek comment on a $100 million budget for the pilot program, which would be funded from the Universal Service Fund; targeting support to projects “that would benefit low-income patients, including those eligible for Medicaid or veterans receiving cost-free medical care”; and supporting “a limited number of projects over a two- or three-year period with controls in place to measure and verify the benefits, costs, and savings associated with connected care deployments.”
He cited benefits of connected care that included a 20% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 15% reduction in heart failure-related hospitalizations found in a study of 20 remote monitoring trials.
Morgan Reed, executive director of app trade association ACT’s Connected Health Initiative, said in a statement, “We strongly support the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) decision to establish the ‘Connected Care Pilot Program.’ This $100 million program is a boon for the millions of Americans living without reliable access to healthcare and the American businesses driving effective, innovative telehealth solutions. We have long been a vocal advocate of connected health and the vital importance of connectivity – without access to broadband, the personalized care, expedited diagnoses, lowered healthcare costs, and countless cost-saving, life-saving benefits of telehealth would be utterly impossible.”
Mr. Reed added, “This pilot program could create more opportunities for our nation’s leading telehealth innovators, like our steering committee member University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), to increase healthcare access and improve treatment outcomes. In a state like Mississippi where 60 percent of the population lives 40-minutes from specialty care facilities, UMMC has used telehealth solutions like remote monitoring and store and forward technologies to treat patients cost-effectively, remotely, and in real time.”
Finally, Chairman Pai said that he will seek a vote on requirements to govern a broadcast “incubator” program aimed at increasing station ownership diversity. “If adopted, my plan will enable the pairing of small aspiring, or struggling, broadcast station owners with established broadcasters who will provide assistance with training, finances, mentoring, and industry connections. And at the end of the incubation period, the incubated entity will have the right to purchase the incubating entity’s interest in the incubated station,” he said. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected], and Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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