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On August 10, 208, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology released a Public Notice seeking comment on the rule changes resulting its 2015 rule-making regarding the 3.5 GHz band.  It’s unusual for the Commission to seek comment on rule changes that were adopted several years ago when it is not reconsidering those rules.  In this case, the Spectrum Pipeline Act requires the Commission to submit a report by November 2, 2018 regarding the 3.5 GHz band rule changes and also “proposals to promote and identify additional spectrum bands that can be shared between incumbent uses and new licensed and unlicensed services under such rules and identification of at least 1 gigahertz between 6 GHz and 57 GHz for such use.”

The 2015 3.5 GHz band Order was noteworthy because it created the concept of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”).  An innovative approach, the CBRS uses priority tiers, an incumbent tier, an auctioned tier, and an unlicensed tier, to maximize investment in the band, while also promoting new technologies.  The Commission’s approach generated significant interest from rural and niche service providers and users that were excited to have a band suitable for high-capacity applications.

It will be interesting to see whether the FCC’s upcoming report will mention that since 2015 the Commission has reopened the CBRS proceeding to make the spectrum more palatable to large wireless carriers. Over the objections or critical infrastructure, rural providers, wireless ISPs, and others, the Commission has proposed to increase the size of licenses in the CBRS auctioned tier to more closely align with metro markets.  Concerns have been raised that such changes will foreclose the innovative uses the band was originally envisioned for.  The Commission’s revised 3.5 GHz rules are expected later this year.

Comments on the Public Notice are due September 11, 2018 and Reply Comments are due September 26, 2018.  For more information, please contact Greg Kunkle (kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178).