The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) said it is encouraged by the FCC’s move to create a rulemaking to implement aspects of the Mobile Now Act.
The FCC voted at its monthly open meeting on Friday to open a proceeding that will explore how changes to the commission’s partitioning, disaggregation and spectrum leasing rules might further the agency’s goals of closing the digital divide and increasing spectrum access for small carriers and in rural areas.
Chief among the many challenges facing small rural providers—like WISPA’s members that provide fixed wireless broadband to millions of Americans—is access to spectrum, according to WISPA.
“We applaud the FCC for seeking comment on how to spur secondary markets for spectrum,” said WISPA President Claude Aiken in a written statement. “Far too often, small and rural providers have limited spectrum access because licensed spectrum lies fallow in rural America. A more robust secondary market could enable small providers to gain access to licensed spectrum.”
Specifically, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the FCC adopted seeks comment on a number of issues, including what conditions may be needed to eliminate impediments to transfers of spectrum to small carriers and what incentives may encourage licensees to lease or sell spectrum to small carriers or unaffiliated carriers that will serve rural areas.
While all five commissioners voted to open the proceeding, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she hopes the commission takes the next step to bring advanced communication to remote areas.
“The partitioning, disaggregation, and leasing contemplated here will work better if our secondary markets can operate with full information,” she said in a written statement. “Today, the place to go for information about who owns spectrum and who might sell or lease it is our Universal Licensing System. But this database is opaque. It’s not user friendly. Moreover, it will only grow more complex and harder to use as we divide and divvy up licenses as contemplated here.”
As the commission moves forward with this proceeding, “we need in parallel a proceeding that will improve this database and increase the transparency of spectrum ownership,” she said. “I hope my colleagues agree—and I look forward to making it happen.”