Comments applaud opening up the 2.5 GHz band, but warn more needs to be done to ensure efficient allocation and use of spectrum
June 13, 2018 – The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to rationalize operation of the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum represents progress toward a market-based, efficient regime for the 2.5 GHz band, but some aspects of the proposal are inconsistent with that goal, according to comments submitted to the Commission by Thomas M. Lenard, Senior Fellow and President Emeritus of the Technology Policy Institute (TPI). Lenard urged the Commission to modify its proposal before the plan is finalized.
The EBS part of the 2.5 GHz band was originally designated for transmitting instructional materials. However, recognizing that the spectrum was more valuable in other (non-educational) uses, the Commission eventually relaxed its requirements. Today, an estimated 90 percent of active EBS licenses are leased to other entities for non-educational purposes. In addition, the EBS band is currently unassigned in half the country, primarily rural areas west of the Mississippi.
The FCC is proposing to further open the band to commercial uses – such as for 5G. In his comments, Dr. Lenard applauds the FCC’s decision to make additional spectrum available for flexible use, but emphasizes that some proposals – such as special filing windows for preferred applicants – are not likely to be the most efficient method of getting the most value out of the spectrum. “The Commission’s proposal goes part of the way,” he states,” but seems also to be unwilling to completely abandon the traditional command-and-control world. Aspects of the proposal…would likely slow the transition, delaying the full benefits of efficient spectrum allocation.”
“The Commission’s goal, correctly, is to ensure that the 2.5 GHz spectrum is allocated to its highest-valued uses,” states Dr. Lenard in his comments. “Accomplishing this goal requires two things: First, the Commission needs to remove remaining restrictions on EBS licenses and convert them to flexible-use licenses. The Commission is proposing to do this. Second, the Commission needs to select a mechanism for moving the unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum – the “white spaces” – to flexible-use licenses. These two actions will achieve significant progress toward more efficient spectrum use.”
The FCC is considering using either an overlay auction or an incentive auction to move the unassigned spectrum. Dr. Lenard argues that, “the overlay auction seems better suited to the EBS band and is likely to involve lower costs and fewer delays in moving the spectrum to productive uses.”
As part of its proposal, the Commission is proposing to expand the Geographic Service Areas (GSAs) of incumbent licensees to make them conform to well-defined geographic areas. Lenard urged the Commission, if it goes ahead with this proposal, to better explain the advantages of doing so.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the 2.5GHz band of spectrum was one of the agenda items for the FCC’s May 10 Open Commission Meeting.
To read Dr. Lenard’s full comments, please click here.
For more information about the FCC’s May Open Commission Meeting, please click here.
Spectrum and infrastructure issues more generally will be an important topic at this year’s TPI Aspen Forum, August 19-21. For more information, to view the agenda, and to register to attend this year’s Forum, please click here.
Contact: Chris McGurn, 202-445-0820, [email protected]
The Technology Policy Institute
The Technology Policy Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation in the United States and around the world. More information is available at https://techpolicyinstitute.org/.