CTIA, CCA applaud FCC decision on CBRS, but rural concerns remain for others

rural area
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said county-based licenses for CBRS are just right—not too large and not too small. (Pixabay)

Some people were very happy to see the FCC revise the rules for the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) band—after all, it had been in limbo by some accounts for three years—while others see it as a blow to rural America.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who has been a champion for broadband in rural areas, acknowledged that some will claim Tuesday's decision is bad for rural America. That’s not true, he said. The county-based approach that the commission voted for has been endorsed by the Rural Wireless Association, and the compromise was endorsed by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association.

Retired FCC Commissioner Michael Copps doesn’t see it that way, tweeting:

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Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America's Open Technology Institute, shared thoughts in a similar vein.

“The FCC majority’s vote today is a blow to rural America and to consumers who could have greatly benefited from high-capacity broadband deployed locally by a wide variety of small internet providers and thousands of individual businesses,” he said in a statement. “America’s emerging 5G wireless ecosystem will be less robust and innovative as a result.

“By rewriting the rules, the FCC is taking spectrum away from rural broadband providers and every other industry that wants to deploy its own wireless solutions, delivering it instead to a few big mobile carriers that will leave the band unused indoors and outside the big cities and suburbs,” Calabrese added.

CTIA, on the other hand, has been lobbying for more midband spectrum and was one of the parties that pressed the FCC to take another swat at the rules.

“We commend Commissioner O'Rielly and the FCC for making targeted changes to the 3.5 GHz band to facilitate the deployment of next-generation wireless networks. Mid-band spectrum is essential to spurring the innovative 5G services of tomorrow, and the FCC’s approach represents a better balance that will make this first-to-market mid-band spectrum more investment friendly for a wide array of users,” said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.

Likewise, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), which had at one point been at odds with CTIA until they reached a compromise, lauded the commission for its action, particularly Commissioner Michael O’Rielly for spearheading the effort. Licensing PALs by counties will help foster investment, protect against technological interference and fuel next-generation deployments to rural and remote areas, according to CCA.

“The 3.5 GHz band is incredibly valuable spectrum and offers real opportunities for deployment of next-generation and 5G technologies,” stated CCA President and CEO Steven K. Berry. “As Chairman Pai noted from a letter signed by CCA and over twenty CEOs and senior-level officials, today’s Order will provide competitive carriers, especially those that serve rural areas, with a meaningful opportunity to bid on and acquire spectrum to provide these areas with the latest broadband services.”

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association welcomed the FCC’s approval of the report and order on CBRS. “Today’s action represents a balanced approach to making such spectrum available for effective commercial use throughout the country. NTCA’s small, rural operator members look forward to the opportunity to obtain this valuable spectrum to complement and enhance the broadband services they already offer in their communities,” said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield.

“WIA applauds the FCC’s dedicated efforts to encourage investment in the CBRS band, ensuring it is fully utilized to benefit consumers,” said Zac Champ, vice president of Government Affairs at the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA). “Today’s action to establish an efficient licensing process will prove key to the successful and expeditious deployment of service in the 3.5 GHz band. The FCC has provided critical incentives for innovation as the wireless industry deploys 5G services.”