In their first meeting with only four FCC Commissioners, the leadership at the agency voted Thursday to consider opening up Educational Broadband Service (EBS) airwaves to more users in the 2.5 GHz band.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said during the vote, the 2496-2690 MHz of spectrum is the largest contiguous band of spectrum below three gigahertz that could be used for 5G. His colleague Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said what started as an educational closed circuit video has “morphed into a broadband play for commercial providers.” New approaches to the band are needed, Commissioners agreed, because periodic application freezes have led to significant underuse of the band.
Chairman Ajit Pai, thinking FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was done speaking, started his remarks. She jokingly said, “Hey, there’s only one of us now, I’m going to take as long as I need,” referring to the departure of fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn from the dais.
“While we seek comment on how to increase flexibility for licensees, we must be mindful of educational use” in the band, she said. Rosenworcel challenged colleagues and the public alike to use the proceeding to develop “creative solutions” to help bridge the homework gap, such as a spectrum auction for “overlay rights” in the band. FCC Chairman Pai said the agency is thinking “openly and broadly” about EBS licenses. An example is the Commission asks for comment in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about giving existing EBS licensees, along with other educational entities and Tribal communities, the chance to obtain new priority licenses and then auctioning off the remaining white spaces. The proposal would also loosen geographic limits on license holders.
by Leslie Stimson, Inside TowersWashington Bureau Chief