Industry comments filed this week are largely supportive of FCC plans to eliminate the agency’s presumption that wireless service licensees identified in Section 20.9 of the FCC’s rules intend to operate as commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) carriers that are subject to regulatory treatment as common carriers. 

Mobile services presumptively treated as CMRS under Section 20.9 include, among others:  (1) cellular radiotelephone services; (2) personal communications services (PCS); (3) land mobile radio services in the 220-222 MHz band; (4) private paging services; and (5) interconnected Part 90 specialized mobile radio services.  In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in July, the FCC stated that its plan to eliminate Section 20.9 corresponds with “the Commission’s process reform initiative . . . to update and modernize our Part 20 and related rules.”  The FCC further explained that the proposed rule revisions “are intended to eliminate the burden on applicants and licensees that desire to operate on a non-CMRS basis of having to overcome the presumption that their service offerings are CMRS.” 

Asserting that “Section 20.9’s structure and purpose no longer match the highly competitive and innovative wireless marketplace,” wireless association CTIA voiced support for the FCC’s proposal, observing that the rule changes “will bring the rules for services like PCS in line with regulations governing spectrum used for other mobile services, such as those in the 700 MHz band.”  As CTIA lauded the proposal as one that “will also afford wireless providers with the flexibility needed to develop and deploy innovative new 5G and Internet of Things products and services,” the trade group emphasized the importance of the FCC specifying “that licensees may provide both commercial mobile and private mobile services, subject, of course to compliance with the regulatory obligation applicable to the service in question.”  Along a similar vein, Motorola Solutions, Inc. agreed that “the services identified in Section 20.9 have evolved significantly over time, and eliminating this rule would help advance the Commission’s desire to afford greater flexibility in the licensing and operation” of mobile services. 

Meanwhile, as the Enterprise Wireless Alliance recommended “that the FCC retain the current common carrier, non-common carrier and private internal categories as they allow applicants to more clearly identify how they intend to deploy the spectrum requested,” the Government Wireless Technology & Communications Association (GWTCA) highlighted the potential benefits of the proposed rule change for government entities.  Arguing that the CMRS presumption, “which may have been pertinent when adopted, no longer serves a useful purpose,” GWTCA told the FCC that elimination of Section 20.9 would also eliminate the need for government entities to file requests for waiver of the FCC’s rules which “needlessly [delay] the application process, [engage] unnecessarily the Commission’s scarce resources, and [cause] uncertainty.”