FCC Overhauls Renewals for Wireless Radio Services

FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly. Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers

The FCC doesn’t want its patchwork of license renewal obligations for Wireless Radio Services to hinder broadband deployment. That’s why the agency has taken steps to streamline them and establish a consistent standard. The Commission approved a Report and Order and adopted uniform service continuity rules at its monthly meeting last week.

“According to the Commission’s licensing records, more than 675,000 renewal applications are expected to be filed by geographic and site-based licensees over the next decade. At a time when both the Commission’s budget and staff appear to be shrinking, it behooves us to have a streamlined and efficient process in place to review forthcoming applications,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn during the vote.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said they provide certainty that didn’t exist under the previous rules. “Comparative hearings will finally and officially be a thing of the past, and there will no longer be a debate about what exactly does the Commission mean by “substantial service.” Instead, these are replaced with safe harbors,” he said. “Generally, an entity that operates consistent with its last buildout requirement, and can certify compliance with certain other rules, will be renewed.”  

Commissioners also voted to require when portions of geographic licenses are sold, both parties have a clear construction obligation and penalty in the event of failure, closing a loophole used to avoid construction requirements. The agency also seeks comment on a range of ideas, like rural broadband deployment, to facilitate continued investment during renewal terms in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

August 7, 2017       

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