FCC Misses an Important Opportunity with 3.45 GHz Order

Washington, DC, March 17, 2021 – WISPA believes the FCC missed an important opportunity to open up the spectrum to a greater diversity of wireless broadband solutions for bridging the digital divide in its Order on the 3.45 GHz band.  Experience shows that applying the CBRS General Authorized Access rules and county sizes for an auction of the 3.45 GHz band could have attracted more winning bidders than any spectrum auction using much larger Partial Economic Areas (PEAs), which only the largest mobile companies can afford.   
The CBRS model of spectrum allocation accomplished two important things.  It brought 228 diverse, small, rural and urban providers to the table, over 70 of which were WISPs – something the PEA model cannot do.  And, it provided 80 megahertz of licensed-by-rule, opportunistic use spectrum, which all can employ at far less cost than acquiring expensive licenses.  Consequently, CBRS is providing solutions now, especially for those in the hardest to reach areas of America.  Simply put, the CBRS model bridges the digital divide in a cost-effect and rapid way, with no federal dollars needed to achieve important policy objectives.  Despite this proven success, the Commission unfortunately chose the PEA approach for the 3.45 GHz band.
We appreciate that the Commission’s efforts and sincere inquiry – especially those of Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks – to see if the CBRS model could have been applied to the 3.45 GHz band.  It did not bear fruit here.  This was due in large part to a statutory requirement that the Commission start an auction for a portion of this spectrum coupled with an NTIA relocation cost estimate that meant the aggregate reserve price for this auction had to exceed $14.77 billion.  But we hope that the Commission will carry the CBRS model forward into other spectrum bands, such as the 3.1 to 3.45 GHz band, and we stand ready to help the FCC achieve this goal for what lies ahead.
WISPA’s 1000 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 millions of residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.

Mike Wendy