The FCC took steps recently to boost wireless broadband network development with its unanimous decision to remove, in the words of an agency press release, “regulatory barriers that today limit the use of spectrum for wireless backhaul and other point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications.” Handed down at the agency’s monthly open meeting last Friday, the ruling comprises a second report and order in an ongoing proceeding that aims to update the FCC’s Part 101 microwave regulations to permit flexible usage of the microwave bands for wireless backhaul operations that form a critical component of mobile broadband services. The order also follows on the adoption of a report and order and further rulemaking notice a year ago that made additional spectrum available for wireless backhaul. The FCC noted that the recent steps will “ensure that our regulations take into account modern technologies.” In addition to reforming efficiency standards, the agency also approved a rural flexibility policy that permits rural licensees to seek relief from efficiency standards through the agency’s waiver process. Noting that such relief “could allow the use of microwave in areas where such use would not be economically feasible under the current rules,” the FCC predicted that its new flexibility policy would encourage rural backhaul deployment by enabling operators to achieve substantial cost savings. Under a second notice of inquiry adopted alongside Friday’s order, the FCC is seeking industry input on (1) additional changes to antenna standards that reflect advances in technology and (2) whether a more comprehensive review of Part 101 antenna standards should be undertaken. Asserting that most consumers “are unaware that their calls, texts and e-mails could not function without invisible, but critical backhaul components,” FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell applauded his colleagues for “taking another step to spur the construction of advanced broadband networks in both urban and rural areas.” A spokesman for the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition proclaimed that the new rules “will make it faster, easier, and less expensive to deliver broadband microwave capacity to the places where it’s needed most.”