‘Spectrum Frontiers' Rule to Wrap Up Next Summer: Wheeler

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By Lydia Beyoud

Nov. 17 — A rulemaking proceeding to open up high-band spectrum frequencies to support fifth-generation (5G) wireless technologies and the Internet of Things will be completed by summer 2016, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said.

Speaking at a House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology oversight hearing, Nov. 17, Tom Wheeler said the “spectrum frontiers” notice of proposed rulemaking would be followed with an additional rulemaking to open up further spectrum in the higher bands beyond those identified in the item (2015 TLN 6, 11/1/15).

Both Wheeler and fellow Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the rulemaking was imperative to maintain the U.S.’s pole position in spectrum policy and innovation. “It’s imperative that the FCC lead when we deal with this issue, because the rest of the world is starting to look at this issue,” Rosenworcel said.

Special Access Focus in 2016

Wheeler also promised to make the matter of a special access proceeding one of his administration’s priorities for the remainder of his tenure, which is expected to run through the end of the Obama administration.

The FCC has two proceedings under way to examine competition in the special access market, which allows competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) to use incumbent LEC's infrastructure to deliver special services such as connectivity for schools, libraries, and ATMs .

While subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) stressed the need to curtail the FCC’s authority to interpret congressional intent in his opening remarks, the panel's ranking member, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), praised the FCC for taking the initiative on an “honor roll” of issues during Wheeler’s time at the head of the agency.

For his part, Wheeler called on the subcommittee and Congress to work with the FCC to promote broadband infrastructure deployment. He commended both Eshoo and Walden for their bipartisan “Dig Once” bill to require federally funded road projects to include the laying of broadband conduit pipe but said only Congress could resolve several key areas.

“Today, court decisions decide infrastructure policy,” Wheeler said. “Congress should decide infrastructure policy.” He specifically advocated changing the Clean Water Act of 1972 (Pub. L. No. 92-500), which prohibits laying fiber broadband when a street is dug up to replace a sewer system.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” he said, adding: “talk about dig once.”

He also called for Congress to expedite siting of wireless infrastructure on federal lands and to provide certainty in decisions through infrastructure permit request “shot clocks” and deemed-granted presumptions that would grant a request once a defined period of time had passed without a decision.

The wide-ranging hearing also addressed issues of FCC enforcement activity and jurisdiction, aspects of the upcoming incentive auctions, the agency's decision to preempt bans on municipal broadband network construction in Tennessee and North Carolina, among other topics.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine in Washington at kperine@bna.com

Witness testimony from the hearing is at http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/oversight-federal-communications-commission-1.