The FCC has adopted a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), a mechanism by which it advises on potential changes to its policies and seeks comment on options. The NPRM addresses a number of policy initiatives which it says are necessary given “changes in technology, spectrum availability, and the mobile marketplace since the last comprehensive review of these rules more than a decade ago.”
In a series of statements made on 1 October the FCC said that in recent years, large and small wireless providers, as well as trade associations and public interest groups, have requested that the FCC review its current policies regarding mobile spectrum holdings to keep pace with market changes.
“With this NPRM, the FCC seeks comment on ensuring that its policies provide the certainty and predictability needed to make informed investment decisions, including participation in upcoming incentive auctions and secondary market transactions, while also promoting the competition needed to sustain a healthy wireless marketplace.”
One major change, decided in February 2012, is the introduction of incentive auctions of the broadcast television spectrum, freeing up bandwidth for mobile operators. The US 2010 National Broadband Plan introduced the idea of incentive auctions as a tool to help meet the nation's spectrum needs.
The FCC describes the incentive auctions as “voluntary, market-based means of repurposing spectrum by encouraging licensees to voluntarily relinquish spectrum usage rights in exchange for a share of the proceeds from an auction of new licenses to use the repurposed spectrum.”
Last month the FCC adopted an NPRM to enable it to introduced incentive auctions. It says that the TV broadcast television spectrum incentive auction will be the first such auction ever attempted anywhere in the world.
“It will be a ground breaking event for the broadcast television, mobile wireless and technology sectors of our economy. The auction presents a significant financial opportunity for many broadcasters, and we expect it to enhance the ability of broadcasters who remain on the air to continue providing the public with diverse, local, free over-the-air television service.
“At the same time, the spectrum reclaimed through the incentive auction will promote economic growth and enhance America's global competitiveness by increasing the speed, capacity and ubiquity of mobile broadband services such as 4G LTE and Wi-Fi-like networks. In turn, this will accelerate the smartphone- and tablet-led mobile revolution, benefitting consumers and businesses throughout the country.”
The new NPRM announced yesterday seeks comment on a number of issues, including:
- continuing the current approach to evaluating mobile spectrum holdings in the context of
transactions and auctions—a case-by-case analysis, or moving to a different approach such as bright-line limits
- including additional spectrum bands in evaluating spectrum holdings
- updating the FCC’s geographic market analysis, including to consider the impacts of mobile spectrum holdings at the national as well as local levels
- whether the FCC should make distinctions among bands in assessing spectrum holdings.