Panelists See 12 GHz Proceeding Opening Up Opportunity
The FCC moving forward to expand the use of the 12.2-12.7 gigahertz band and the government working to make additional spectrum available will play a key role in closing the digital divide, panelists argued today during an online event sponsored by Public Knowledge and the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute.
The Commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking in WT docket 20-443 and GN docket 17-183 in January to solicit comment on possible expanded use of the 12 GHz band, which is currently licensed on a co-primary basis to direct broadcast satellite (DBS), non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite systems, and fixed service providers (TR Daily, Jan. 15).
Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, said that for the country to close the digital divide and increase digital equity, the FCC, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and other agencies need to look at all the spectrum options available.
“Mid-band is obviously the way to go going forward,” she said. “This pandemic has shown us just how isolating being digitally disconnected can be.”
Digital Progress Institute President Joel Thayer said expanded use of the 12 GHz band would “do a really good job of increasing competition” and the FCC should move forward on making it available to additional users.
Mr. Thayer also argued that the band can be used to more easily expand availability of wireless services, in part because there would be less need to disrupt public rights-of-way.
“The fewer regulatory hoops that carriers need to go through in a city zoning process, the better,” he said.
Mr. Thayer and other panelists also stressed the importance they see in the federal government doing a full inventory of the spectrum it controls and making as much of it available for other users as possible.
“We need to figure out what the government has and how do you value these assets,” Mr. Thayer said. “In order for us to assess this, the government has to play ball. And we have to be able to honestly and earnestly figure out not only what they have, but the value of that.”
Kathleen Burke, policy counsel at Public Knowledge, said the “evidence demonstrates” the ability to share the 12 GHz band with incumbents and argued that if satellite operators have interference concerns, they should submit studies showing data that supports that view.
Matthew Rantanen, director-technology at the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, said tribal interests support adding “opportunistic spectrum sharing” in the 12 GHz band to the list of “tools in the toolbox” available to expand broadband access in tribal areas.
But Mr. Rantanen also urged the FCC to include a “tribal priority window” that would ensure tribal interests have long-term access to use of the spectrum.
Ryan Johnston, policy counsel-federal programs at Next Century Cities, also objected to the notion that only incumbent satellite licensees should have access to the 12 GHz band.
“We’re really looking at how best can we share this spectrum because the more spectrum sharing that we do now, the more precedent we have for when we need to do it in the future,” he said. “And, really, I think this is just the beginning of freeing up more spectrum.”
But others, including satellite operators, have argued that the FCC should not permit terrestrial broadband use of the spectrum, arguing that it would result in harmful interference to incumbents. — Jeff Williams