FCC nominee Starks says spectrum, deployment key to 5G leadership

Geoffrey Starks
Geoffrey Starks participated in a nomination hearing Wednesday. (Screen shot from Senate.gov)

In remarks that should be music to the ears of the wireless industry, FCC nominee Geoffrey Starks said 5G is extremely important to the nation’s economy and making more spectrum bands available for 5G is one of the keys for success.

Starks, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s seat, appeared at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing, which was webcast. It was the first time for many to hear his views on telecom policies and 5G in particular.

“The race to 5G is on and the U.S., I believe, needs to maintain its leadership here,” he said.

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There are two pieces that need to be emphasized: spectrum and deployment. “It is going to be essential that we continue to have more and more spectrum” that can be brought to market—low, mid and high band, he said.

“In particular, 3.5, the C-Band, 5.9, 6.4 and then getting up into the high band, 24 GHz, 28, 37, 39, 47, 64” and higher. Each of those are going to play an important role, he said, giving credit to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and current Chairman Ajit Pai for getting that spectrum teed up.

RELATED: President Trump nominates Geoffrey Starks to FCC

He also gave a nod to Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and others who have called for establishing a pipeline and a schedule so the market knows what spectrum is out there and what’s coming to bear so they can plan accordingly. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also has said he’d like to see a published schedule for auctions.

As for deployment, “it’s going to be essential that we start to modernize our siting of cells and our rights-of-way policies,” Starks said.

Asked about his response to reports the Trump administration continues to explore a nationalized 5G plan, Starks said he hasn’t seen a fully baked idea or plan there, but he understands generally the concern, particularly with 5G and how the supply chains work, that the U.S. must make network security a priority. But based on what he has seen of any nationalized plan, “I don’t think is a good idea,” he said. 

With Starks, a Democrat, poised to join the commission, that will put it back to the full 3-2 Republican majority. Rosenworcel is also a Democrat. Commissioner Brendan Carr joined fellow Republicans Pai and O’Rielly last year.

The U.S. Senate still must confirm the nomination. U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who chaired the hearing, said they’re looking forward to processing the nomination quickly.

Starks, who is from Kansas, has been serving as the assistant bureau chief in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. He has worked in all three branches of government, as a law clerk, a staffer in the Illinois State Senate and at the Department of Justice. He also has worked in the private sector at a bank and a law firm.

One of his priorities is to advance telemedicine opportunities. His family members practice medicine in areas where telehealth options already are being implemented, in places like South Dakota and Kansas. But for telemedicine to be a universal reality, citizens and the healthcare providers need access to affordable broadband connectivity wherever they live and serve, and the FCC has a lot to say about that, he said.

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