The independent blog on spectrum policy issues
that welcomes your input on the key policy issues of the day.

Our focus is the relationship between spectrum policy
and technical innnovation.

A net neutrality free zone: We pledge no mention of any net neutrality issues before 2018.

When they deserve it, we don't hesitate to criticize either NAB, CTIA or FCC.

Comm. O'Rielly: "FCC’s Pre-Adoption Process Also Needs Work"


On April 1, an unfortunate choice of dates, Comm. O’Rielly
posted on the FCC blog a post with the above title. This is an important issue to both improve the efficiency of FCC and its accountability to the commissioners. Below is what we posted on the FCC’s blog as a comment to this post:

I agree that reviewing and reforming FCC's 8th Floor process is vital. But part of this should also look at improving productivity and an objective review of whether the Commission as presently structured and operating is able to keep up with its whole workload. As our society and economy become increasing depending on telecom and IT and other countries are challenging our technical leadership in thee technologies, it is vital that the US enable not just large established industries to innovate, but also entrepreneurs.

As the Commission approaches the 30th anniversary of the Report and Order in Docket 81-413 next month, it is appropriate to recall both that this decision enabled a major expansion of unlicensed spectrum and applications that resulted in billions of dollars of economic activities and literally changed our lives through applications of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but this change appeared to be minor at the time and was actually opposed by almost all mainstream FCC regulatees at the time!

While doing only things that have a broad based consensus in industry has a certain appeal, if this test had been applied to the Docket 81-413 proposals, our world today would be very different.

While the Commission is devoting great efforts to the spectrum needs of the cellular industry and the concerns of the broadcasting industry, other issues are just not getting timely attention. Even the cellular industry has to ration carefully its requests for the Commission’s limited capacity on Title III issue.

Consider the long drawn out history of Docket 10-4 dealing with interference from some “cellular booster” models to cellular base stations. From CTIA’s first formal presentation to FCC on this issue on May 1, 2006 to the adoption of rules on this issue took almost 10 years! The ongoing interference from FM broadcast stations to 700 MHz LTE cellular base station appears to need a rulemaking resolution since there may be a rule contradiction at its base. But it appears that this issue is way off the Commission’s “radar” as the cellular industry would prefer to focus on new spectrum first. The Commission has never even acknowledged this issue except in some obscure EB letters issued by offices “outside the Beltway”.

If the delays of Docket 10-4 look bad, consider the case of Docket 01-278 which dealt with unexpected but repeated interference from police radar detectors (the type that are illegal in 20+ states) to VSAT receivers. While the NPRM and R&O imply the issue was resolved in less than 2 years, in reality it took even longer than Docket 10-4! (I worked at FCC at the time and was fully aware of what was going on but it was not acted on until the problem started spiraling out of control. If the commissioners had been aware of this issue and had consciously decided to defer it based on an estimate it would go away, the delay might have been more understandable. But I am certain they were not aware and probably the several chairmen of that era were not aware either.)

Innovative spectrum application, both for telecom and nontelecom services keep appearing and there is an unspoken threshold of support needed for them to get action from the Commission as presently structured and operating. Petitions for rulemaking, either from innovators or coalitions, can linger in the Commission’s “petition black hole” for years without any action - as the 40 GHz RM-11664 petition from Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition did. The IEEE-USA Docket 13-259 petition on Section 7’s applicability to spectrum above 95 GHz that totally lack ANY service rules as well as the Battelle RM-11713 petition for service rules at 105 GHz have neither been acted on nor dismissed. This lack of action on spectrum above 95 GHz coupled with the wording of the Docket 14-177 NOI that tries to minimize its applicability (see fn. 64) to noncellular spectrum uses sends a chilling message for private capital formation for R&D above 95 GHz at the time when our international competitors are actually subsidizing such R&D!

There are a number of noncommunications products now being produced and sold above 95 GHz in the US that the Commission is “turning a blind eye” to. Such “Terahertz spectrum” has some properties related to infrared technology and is useful in laboratory analysis. However, regulatory ambiguities about this technology may well impede capital formation for it and raise “due diligence” issues if a firm wanted to acquire a startup with such technology. This technology is noncontroversial in the spectrum community, but it also has not met the unstated FCC threshold of support needed for serious FCC consideration. Is this consistent with the mandates of Sections 7(a) and 303(g) of the Communications Act to “encourage the provision of new technologies and services to the public” and “generally encourage the larger and more effective use of radio in the public interest”?

But shouldn’t the FCC be able to BOTH make new spectrum available for new applications, especially in “virgin bands” such as above 95 GHz, as well as solve the inevitable new interference problems that arise within existing bands and services in a timely way?

In changing procedures the Commission should consider also how it can speed up deliberations on technical Title III issues. A general reduction of delegated authority to staff might be a move in the wrong direction with respect to increasing productivity in Title III, although consensus building is need to see what approaches are acceptable to the Commissioners. But first it has to acknowledge that there is a productivity problem.

If it acknowledges (at least internally) a Title III productivity shortfall, it might wish to consider the suggestions of IEEE-USA on “Improving U.S. Spectrum Policy Deliberations in the Period 2013-2017” that have attracted little interest in the Commission so far.

blog comments powered by Disqus