TR Daily Pai Circulates NPRM Proposing to Relax TVWS Rules
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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Pai Circulates NPRM Proposing to Relax TVWS Rules

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the circulation today of a draft notice of proposed rulemaking that would relax its rules for TV white spaces devices, which he said could result in bolstered wireless broadband services in rural areas. He said the Commission will vote on the item at its Feb. 28 meeting.

“TV white spaces can play a critical role in providing broadband services to rural and underserved areas,” Chairman Pai said in a statement. “I saw the promise of this technology in South Boston, a town in rural Virginia, where I met a student who said getting Internet access in his home was a game-changer. The FCC has taken steps to enable the use of white spaces over the years, and this new proposal would further help bridge the digital divide while protecting TV stations.”

“Specifically, Chairman Pai is proposing to permit higher transmit power and higher antennas for fixed white space devices in rural areas,” according to a news release. “If adopted, these changes would allow white space devices to reach users at greater distances, thus enabling improved broadband coverage. Higher power would also enable signals to better penetrate foliage, buildings, and other obstacles. Additionally, his proposal would permit higher power mobile operations within geo-fenced areas and proposes rule revisions to facilitate the development of new and innovative narrowband Internet of Things-based services.

“Because white space device operations must protect other authorized services from interference, Chairman Pai is also proposing to increase the minimum required separation distances for white space devices operating at higher power,” the news release added.

Last year, Microsoft Corp. filed a petition for rulemaking asking the FCC to modify its TVWS rules (TR Daily, May 3, 2019).

In its petition, Microsoft asked the FCC to (1) “[p]ermit fixed WSDs [white spaces devices] in the second-adjacent channel to broadcasters in less congested areas to operate at a higher radiated power limit, consistent with the methodology used in Section 15.712(a)(2)(iv);” (2) “[p]ermit fixed WSDs to operate at greater than 40 mW on the first-adjacent channel at locations within the protected contour where the potential for harmful interference is low;” (3) “[p]ermit fixed WSDs to operate at heights above average terrain of up to 500 meters, consistent with the methodology used in Section 15.712(a)(2)(iv) and subject to a special set of coordination procedures modeled on the Commission’s Part 101 rules;” (4) “[f]oster the development of narrowband WSDs that can support IoT applications by modifying existing technical and operational rules and providing licensees the same level of protection from harmful interference as the rules for broadband WSDs;” and (5) “[p]ermit geofenced operation of fixed WSDs on mobile platforms.”

Microsoft’s petition has drawn support from a wide range of stakeholders, including industry and public interest entities. However, wireless microphone manufacturers are more wary of the petition, saying that any new rules must protect wireless mic operations, and wireless medical telemetry service (WMTS) advocates say the FCC must ensure that TVWS devices don’t impact WMTS devices on Channel 37 (TR Daily, June 11, 2019), which Microsoft said they wouldn’t.

The National Association of Broadcasters has said it supports four of Microsoft’s five requests being explored in an NPRM. It said that it “disagrees, however, that the time is right for a Further Notice exploring Microsoft’s fifth proposal, which would authorize higher power operations on first-adjacent channels to broadcasters.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith tweeted today, “Thank you @FCC and @AjitPaiFCC for your work on TV white space technology and rural broadband. Today’s notice is an important step forward towards bringing broadband to more people in rural America.”

In a statement today, Dennis Wharton, NAB’s executive vice president-communications, said that “NAB appreciates the consensus-based approach the FCC is taking in this proceeding. We look forward to working with the Commission and other stakeholders to develop final rules that will allow more flexibility for rural white spaces operations while protecting broadcasters.”

Connect Americans Now (CAN) Executive Director Richard Cullen said, “We applaud Chairman Pai for his leadership on this rulemaking which can help to unleash the full potential of TV white space technology as a critical tool to help bridge the digital divide. We encourage the full Commission to adopt this Notice at its next open meeting on February 28 and move swiftly to adopt rules in 2020 clearing regulatory barriers to innovation and maximize available spectrum resources to help close the broadband gap.”

“By continuing to support a hybrid network approach, that leverages traditional technologies like fiber alongside innovative solutions, we can reduce the cost of bridging the digital divide by as much as 80 percent,” Mr. Cullen added. “Reducing costs and increasing the pace of deployments are critical for the millions of Americans stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

WifiForward said, “Companies and communities around the country—and the world—are making the unused TV spectrum available on an unlicensed basis to deliver super-fast broadband connections and the U.S. can soon join them. WifiForward commends the Chairman for his move to make the most efficient use of our spectrum resources for public benefit.”

Louis Peraertz, vice president-policy for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, said, “Good spectrum policy seeks to squeeze as much juice as possible from the limited spectrum we have, making it more broadly useful for others. That’s why today’s action by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai – in which he has essentially proposed to make the TV White Spaces band (TVWS) more powerful – must be commended. It would allow for higher power use and taller antennas in the band, increasing coverage areas serviced through TVWS. Innovation will abound, as a new ecosystem of hardware, software and Internet providers will develop due to the band’s more attractive propagation characteristics. Ultimately wireless consumers will win from the new offerings which will result.”

“We applaud the FCC for its draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on this positive use of the TVWS spectrum as an option for the 20 million Americans who lack access to broadband connectivity. If adopted, the proposal will take a significant step toward resolving outstanding issues impeding TVWS technology such as allowing connectivity to mobile platforms, narrowband applications such as sensor-driven smart agriculture, and acceptable power levels in less congested areas,” said Morgan Reed, president of ACT, which represents apps developers.

“Our members’ innovative applications and services—from smart agriculture to connected health—require the high speed, reliable broadband connections TVWS can provide to their businesses and customers,” he added. “The NPRM brings us one step closer to realizing a connected future for all Americans no matter where they live. We thank the FCC for continuing to pursue all options to close the digital divide and look forward to working with the Commission and its staff.”

“Chairman Pai’s proposal is a significant step toward bridging the broadband divide in rural, Tribal and unserved areas. The Chairman’s proposal acknowledges that more efficient sharing of vacant or underused spectrum is an important source of infrastructure for enabling more high-capacity and affordable internet access in rural America,” said Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. “Under the proposal, farms, schools and rural internet providers will be able to harness the power of unused TV spectrum to extend Wi-Fi and other unlicensed wireless technologies, helping to narrow the homework gap, fuel precision agriculture and extend connectivity to less populated parts of the country.”

“Despite enormous leaps in wireless technology and dramatic changes to the broadcast band as a result of the 2016 spectrum auction, the TVWS rules have remained stuck in the past. Depending on the language of the proposal, Chairman Pai’s proposed changes could allow thousands of wireless internet service providers in rural America to provide real broadband access to their communities,” said Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld. “We look forward to working with the Commission to modernize the TVWS rules as part of our national 5G strategy.”

“By proposing to remove barriers to TVWS broadband deployment, Chairman Pai is empowering anchor institutions to address the digital divide and connect their users where they are,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition. “School districts in Halifax County and Charlotte County, Virginia are already using TVWS technology to provide internet service to underserved students so that they can do their homework. This proposal could open the door for even more anchors to do the same.”

But Mark Brunner, VP-corporate and government relations for Shure, Inc., a wireless mic manufacturer, was less enthused with the circulation of the draft TVWS item.

“Shure wholeheartedly supports FCC initiatives to increase broadband service to rural and underserved communities – which we believe can be accomplished through a variety of methods – and we worked closely with the Commission on the carefully crafted current white space rules,” he said. “Unfortunately, changes in TV Band spectrum rules have corresponded with losses for wireless microphone users, particularly difficult for smaller scale unlicensed operators common in rural areas and who now have no mechanism to protect their service. We also note that these proposals rely on TVWS devices and licensed wireless microphone operators require a fully functional geo-location database system, which has deteriorated in recent years and should be addressed before any substantial rule changes are made. Shure responded to Microsoft’s Petition for Rulemaking on relaxing the TVWS rules and expressed our specific concerns, and we look forward to providing comments in the NPRM.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews SpectrumAllocation WirelessDeployment

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