WISPA, Coalition Propose CBRS Compromise

A coalition led by the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) proposed a compromise for the licensing of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum band (3550-3700 MHz). Smaller ISPs have been at odds with larger carriers over this spectrum. Larger carriers say longer license terms that cover larger geographic areas would attract more investment and stabilize the band. Smaller ISPs have called that a giveaway and said it would essentially convert the band to 5G use, rather than the shared, innovative uses the FCC intended.    

The CBRS Coalition said in a joint letter to the FCC Thursday, the group of stakeholders with different spectrum use cases has come together to support “a straightforward, balanced compromise framework” that will make the CBRS band “a catalyst for U.S. technology and innovation leadership (including 5G), U.S. economic and job growth, and modernizing the nation’s infrastructure.”

The signatories include 11 companies (Cox Communications, Exelon, FedEx Corporate Services, Frontier Communications, General Electric, Motorola, pdv Wireless, Southern Linc, Transit Wireless, Union Pacific, and Windstream Holdings); eight associations representing hundreds of members each (Edison Electric Institute, Enterprise Wireless Alliance, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, Rural Wireless Association, Utilities Technology Council, and WISPA); and the nation’s largest port authority, the Port of Los Angeles.

To ensure that all stakeholders have an opportunity to obtain PALs at auction, the CBRS Coalition urges the FCC to adopt a “hybrid” licensing framework with the following elements:

  • In every U.S. county, there should be five county-based CBRS PALs available at auction;   
  • In every U.S. census tract, there should be two census-tract-based CBRS PALs available at auction;    
  • The license term for all PALs should be seven years; and  
  • PALs should be renewable based on performance criteria.

The coalition says the availability of five county-based licenses in every U.S. county will meet the needs of commercial mobile wireless carriers, cable companies, and other broadband providers that desire larger license areas. Meanwhile, the availability of two licenses in every census tract nationwide is essential to meeting the minimum spectrum needs of industrial and critical-infrastructure entities, broadband operators serving rural areas, enterprise solution providers, commercial real estate interests, and other parties with geographically-targeted CBRS deployment plans.   

WISPA wanted to maintain the current licensing rules, which were designed to make it easier for local entrepreneurs to close the rural broadband gap, while also spurring a variety of other local, innovative use cases. However the FCC agreed to reopen the rules last October, following a petition filed by T-Mobile and CTIA, Inside Towers reported. Since then, the Commission asked stakeholders to forge a new CBRS framework.   

“While we wish the FCC would keep the current rules in place, this compromise is still a valuable step forward for our members and for America,” said WISPA President Claude Aiken. “It preserves small business access to the CBRS band. We still oppose auctioning PALs at the larger Partial Economic Area or Cellular Market Area levels, because it would eliminate our members’ ability to participate in the CBRS auction.”  

May 11, 2018         

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