WISPA keeps watchful eye on CBRS auction rules

WISPs and others that don't need large service areas had argued for smaller CBRS license areas. (Pixabay)

Burned by the commission’s prior decision to reject census tract-sized licenses for Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS), the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) said it’s keeping a close eye on developments related to auction procedures for the band.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted on a public notice asking for comment on the procedures to be used for Auction 105, the auction of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) for the licensed portion of the CBRS band. Bidding is scheduled to start on June 25, 2020.

Throughout the proceeding, entities like WISPs, industrial IoT companies and others argued for smaller sized license areas while wireless operators pushed for larger territories. When the commission decided to go with a combination of county-sized licenses and rejected calls for licenses based on census tracts, WISPA was severely disappointed, saying that kind of structure would shut out a significant portion of its members from using licensed CBRS spectrum to deliver services to under-served rural areas.

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Since then, the organization has been trying to ensure that WISPA member companies that are interested in participating in the CBRS PAL auctions have a fair opportunity to acquire licenses at the county level.

WISPs have some concerns about the Cellular Market Area (CMA) bidding proposal and appreciate the safeguards that the commission adopted in the proposed procedures, according to Louis Peraertz, vice president of policy at WISPA. The association will continue to monitor the proceeding to make sure the rules don’t inadvertently favor the CMA bidder over a county bidder, he told FierceWireless.

“The proposal to require bidders for a CMA to forego bidding on individual counties in that CMA appears to incentivize sincere bidding and deter price manipulation for counties,” Peraertz said in a statement Friday. “The CMA bidding proposal also appears to require that in order for a CMA bidder to win a license, it must be the highest bidder in all of the counties in a given CMA. We thank the Commission for these safeguards as they will assist small companies.”

Before the commission approved the public notice on Thursday, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said he was successful in getting language in the public notice changed to clarify the relationship between CMA-level and county-level bids. He urged stakeholders to share their views on a host of questions, including whether county-level bidders will be able to compete effectively with CMA-level bidders for blocks in counties within the same CMA as a large city.