Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
In a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released on July 11 (scheduled to be adopted at the FCC’s August 1 Open Meeting), the FCC proposes to implement the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund through a two-phase approach that would allocate support using a multi-round, descending clock auction, as utilized in the CAF II auction conducted in 2018. Phase I of the RDOF would allocate support to wholly-unserved census blocks not having broadband speeds at or above 25/3 Mbps with a budget of at least $16 billion over ten years. Many of these census blocks were included in the FCC’s 2015 state-wide offers to the price cap ILECs that set a performance obligation of 10/1 Mbps. Phase II would allocate the remaining support to unserved locations in partially unserved census blocks along with areas not won in Phase I. Bidding preferences for technologies would be established for higher speeds, such as fiber-based gigabit service. 25/3 Mbps will be the minimum bidding tier.
FCC to Consider 911 Items at August Open Meeting
Last week, the FCC issued the draft text of an Order that would adopt rules implementing Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act. Kari’s Law requires MLTS systems sold or installed after February 16, 2020, to enable users to dial 911 directly, without having to dial a prefix to reach an outside line. The law also requires MLTS systems to provide a notification (ex. to a front desk or security office) when a 911 call is made. RAY BAUM’S Act requires the Commission to consider rules that ensure a dispatchable location is conveyed along with every 911 call, regardless of the technological platform used. This would ensure a 911 call center receives the caller’s location automatically and can dispatch responders more quickly. The Order will be voted on during the Commission’s Open Meeting next month.
Broadband Data Collection Order
The Commission released a draft Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the collection of broadband deployment data. If adopted, the Report and Order portion would establish the “Digital Opportunity Data Collection” to collect geospatial broadband coverage maps from ISPs, adopt a process to collect public input on the accuracy of the ISPs’ maps, and make changes to the FCC Form 477 to reduce reporting burdens and incorporate new technologies. The Second FNPRM generally seeks comment on how to ensure greater precision, accurate, and reliable coverage data in the Digital Opportunity Data Collection. The FNPRM also seeks comment on sunsetting the FCC Form 477 broadband deployment collection once the Digital Opportunity Data Collection is created.
Request to Modify 900 MHz Freeze
In March, the Commission adopted the 900 MHz Freeze NPRM to facilitate a 3 x 3 MHz broadband sub-band through voluntary negotiations with current 900 MHz narrowband licensees, relocating these narrowband incumbent operations to the remaining 2 x 2 of the 900 MHz band (Vol. XVI, Issue 11). Anterix (formerly pdvWireless) filed a request to modify the 900 MHz Freeze. Anterix requested that incumbents “be permitted to exchange frequencies in the broadband segment voluntarily for frequencies in the narrowband segments on a 1:1 basis.” Anterix explained that allowing incumbents to begin voluntary relocation will accelerate the relocation process without compromising the outcome of the proceeding.
FCC Ruling and NPRM Impacting Multitenant Properties
On July 10, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Declaratory Ruling impacting owners and operators of commercial and residential multitenant properties (MTEs), focusing on multiple dwelling units (MDUs). In the Declaratory Ruling, the FCC preempted San Francisco’s local ordinance that authorizes sharing of in-use wiring in MDUs but endorsed state and local laws that require facilities-based access to MDUs for broadband services. The NPRM raises questions on (i) access and marketing agreements for fixed broadband, video and voice services (“Triple Play Agreements”) routinely negotiated by services providers and MDUs, (ii) wireless rooftop leases, and (iii) wireless carrier access to inbuilding distributed antenna systems (DAS).
Millimeter Wave Auction Procedures
The Commission issued a Public Notice with procedures for the Millimeter Wave Incentive Auction. The Auction will reconfigure the 39 GHz band to offer new flexible use licenses in the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands (Vol. XVI, Issue 12). Bidding for the auction is scheduled to begin December 10, 2019. The Commission will offer 100 MHz blocks of spectrum licensed by Partial Economic Area (PEA) service area, for a total of 3,400 MHz of spectrum.