WISPA Thanks FCC for 3.65 GHz Blanket Waiver

Washington, DC, March 19, 2020 – Today, the FCC announced it will grant WISPA’s blanket waiver requesting additional time for 3.65 GHz licensees to transition their operations to Part 96 Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).  As a result, the prior deadline of April 17, 2020, has been pushed back to October 17, 2020, giving licensees six more months to make the transition.
When the FCC created its new CBRS band in 2015, 3.65 GHz operators were given five years to comply with new rules which require CBRS-certified equipment.  Today’s development defers that transition period, giving providers more time to update their network.  For now, it prevents thousands of rural customers from losing service – something especially important given the role Internet connectivity will play in keeping us safe and in touch with the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additionally, this decision promotes transitioning our networks and consumers to better broadband Internet service by obviating the need of small WISPs from using their limited resources and capital to file individual waivers.        
The complexity and several year delay of certifying, developing and integrating numerous interdependent parts to make the CBRS band a reality threw the overall transition process off schedule and out of kilter.  The CBRS band only recently saw full commercial deployment, two years behind what was anticipated.  This had a cascading effect on the rest of the process, with the hardware, software and services ecosystem just now coming online.  Further, WISPs recently learned that some popular pieces of equipment they employ in the 3.65 GHz band will never become CBRS compliant.  The COVID-19 crisis has only added to these challenges, limiting supply of CBRS-compliant gear.  On the whole, the delays and supply-chain issues have greatly attenuated building-season, pushing much of the transition work – which entails the physical process of changing out tower and CPE equipment – into inhospitable winter months, and making the initial transition date impossible for many WISPs to reasonably achieve. 
“We thank the FCC for granting a limited waiver of the April 17, 2020 transition date,” said Louis Peraertz.  “It will help customers – many of whom reside in unserved and underserved rural areas – stay connected, while also allowing a more reasonable glide path for WISPs to transition equipment and services to the standards of the CBRS band.” 
Peraertz added, “The waiver will minimize the adverse effects of the CBRS band’s requirements on those presently operating 3.65 GHz services without compromising the public interest benefits of new CBRS services – providers may more readily become CBRS-compliant; their customers won’t be dropped off the network; and new CBRS deployment will not be hampered by lingering 3.65 GHz transition issues.”
WISPA’s approximately 850 members are composed of fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the industry that supports fixed wireless broadband, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components needed to run a successful business. Our members, and WISPs, in general, provide broadband access to over 6 million residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.
Mike Wendy