More Spectrum Needed to Deploy Rural Broadband

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From left: Tom Stroup, Claude Aiken

Experts from several industries told lawmakers yesterday it will take several solutions to bridge the digital divide in rural areas, but they have one thing in common — they need access to more spectrum. Broadband can be delivered through a variety of technologies, including fiber, cable, mobile or fixed wireless, satellite, or any combination. Macro towers and small cells are an integral part of broadband delivery, witnesses testified.

House Communications Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is looking to consolidate several rural broadband proposals, and held a hearing to re-examine them. Main themes emerged such as how to structure the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band and C-band to enable more sharing and how to improve the FCC-NTIA broadband map so small carriers can be eligible for government subsidies to deploy rural broadband.

Satellite Industry Association President Tom Stroup, said satellites are providing critical backhaul in remote locations now and the industry is investing in more satellites to deliver internet connectivity with lower latency levels. Satellite services bring competition to rural areas that often have only a small number of providers, he said. The satellite industry is heavily involved in the C-band debate at the FCC. The agency just opened a proceeding to figure out how incumbent and new users can co-exist in using the band without interference, Inside Towers reported. 

Justin Forde, Senior Director of Government Relations, Midco, said his company uses fiber to provide fixed wireless service in rural areas of the Dakotas and northern Minnesota. “In the past, the government used funds for places that already have service. We ask your support to keep dollars in un-served areas.” Companies like his need access to more spectrum with wider channels. Midco supports the FCC offering smaller geographic licenses in the CBRS band and 2.5 GHz band.

Most members of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) build cost-efficient local networks; they lease infrastructure on which they hang radios, such as commercial towers, water towers or the side of a barn, said WISPA President President/CEO Claude Aiken. Many members are frustrated by the lack of wider spectrum channels that enable them to provide service within reach of a tower, he said. WISPA too, supports small, flexible licenses in the CBRS spectrum.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

July 18, 2018         

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