New FCC Program Offers Spectrum Incentives

Posted: Aug 15, 2022 11:27 AM

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted at its July meeting to start a new program that should help boost broadband access by freeing up more unused spectrum.In a bipartisan vote, the Commissioners decided unanimously to adopt the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program, which will offer incentives to larger holders of spectrum to entice them to make unused spectrum available to smaller carriers and tribal nations.The program encourages licensees to partition, disaggregate, or lease spectrum to better match available spectrum resources with eligible entities seeking to offer internet to unserved or underserved communities. The program requires that in a long-term leasing agreement at least half of the licensed spectrum from a Wireless Radio Services license go to an unaffiliated eligible provider and meet specific minimum geographic thresholds.In exchange, the parties involved in the spectrum transactions get three major benefits from the program:-A license term extension of five years for both the holder of the spectrum and the provider receiving it in partitioning and disaggregation transactions‑A one-year extension of construction benchmarks for all parties-Substitution of the assignee’s coverage of the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program qualifying geography in lieu of current construction requirements if they’re focusing on rural areas in using the spectrum.The FCC noted in a press release accompanying the vote that the program builds upon goals set by Congress in the MOBILE NOW Act to incentivize transactions in the public interest that will help close the digital divide. That act required the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to make available at least 455 total megahertz for wireless use, with a focus on mobile and fixed wireless broadband.As a way to enhance accountability, the commission will evaluate the program after five years to determine its effectiveness and to examine what changes might be needed.Independent of the new incentive program, the FCC also voted to permit reaggregation of geographic licenses, which should help reduce regulatory burdens on providers.The Rural Wireles …

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