The Federal Communications Commission is considering allowing schools, churches and several companies in the private sector to sell or lease spectrum they control. The FCC anticipates the proposed rule changes will provide alternatives for the provision of mobile broadband services for consumers in urban, suburban and rural areas.
Currently, the 190 megahertz of spectrum in the 2500-2690 MHz bands is designated for the provision of Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) and the Multi-channel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS).
On Oct. 7, the Wireless Communications Association International, the National ITFS Association and the Catholic Television Network (collectively known as the Coalition) submitted a proposal requesting that the FCC substantially change the rules governing the spectrum in their licensed space.
In the Notice of Propose Rulemaking, the FCC requests comment on operational, technical, and procedural rule changes. Specifically, the FCC invites comment on how to reconfigure the 2500-2600 MHz band.
“By todays notice, the Commission explores ways for the American people to enjoy the full potential of a large parcel of previously underutilized, prime spectrum real estate,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said. “The opportunity is monumental — the MMDS/ITFS band encompasses 190 MHz of contiguous spectrum. This is more than double the 83 MHz that spurred the development of WiFi at 2.4 GHz. It is roughly equal to all spectrum currently devoted to terrestrial, mobile wireless.”
Powell said the space has been underutilized by the “heavy hand” of regulation.
“The time has come chip off the regulatory barnacles encumbering ITFS and MMDS,” said Powell. “By this Notice, we explore opportunities to increase licensed use of the 2.5 GHz band via spectrum auctions, examine unlicensed spectrum options, and evaluate rule changes to effectuate our earlier decision to add a mobile allocation to the band.”
Commissioner Michael Copps, however, expressed concern over the idea of allowing those who received their spectrum for free in return for providing educational services now profiting from the deal.
“ITFS licensees were given their spectrum for free. This makes sense as they are public schools and non-profit educators and were required to use their spectrum to serve the public through education,” Copps said. “Many private MMDS and MDS licensees also received their spectrum for free. If we allow these licensees to sell their spectrum, we could see a rush of licensees who received their spectrum for free selling their licenses and pocketing the proceeds. If this occurs we will be vulnerable to charges of allowing windfall profits using the public spectrum.”