Dec 29 -- The Federal Communications Commission (Commission or FCC) proposes an Enhanced Competition Incentive Program to encourage licensees to offer opportunities for small carriers, Tribal Nations, and entities committing to serve rural areas to obtain spectrum via lease, partition, or disaggregation. This Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on the proposed Enhanced Competition Incentive Program, its incentives, and waste, fraud, and abuse protections, as well as additional proposals including alternative construction benchmarks for all wireless radio service licensees and flexibility to reaggregate licenses. Interested parties may file comments on or before February 28, 2022, and reply comments on or before March 29, 2022.
With this Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we take key steps towards closing the digital divide and we make further progress on the goals set forth by Congress in the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act (MOBILE NOW Act) regarding the diversity of spectrum access and the provision of service to rural areas. In particular, we propose an Enhanced Competition Incentive Program focused on increasing spectrum access for small carriers and Tribal Nations and on increasing the availability of advanced telecommunications services in rural areas with the goals of promoting greater competition in and expanded access to such services. To achieve these vital Commission goals, we propose to modify our existing partitioning, disaggregation, and leasing rules by providing specific incentives for stakeholders to participate in the program by engaging in qualifying transactions that make spectrum available to these entities and in these areas. Separate from the incentive program, we seek comment on potential alternatives to population-based performance requirements for a variety of stakeholders. Further, we propose to provide for reaggregation of partitioned and disaggregated licenses up to the original license size.
We propose a range of incentives to promote partitioning, disaggregation, and leasing, including extending license terms by five years, extending construction periods by one year, and creating alternate rural-focused construction requirements. Under this two-pronged proposal, parties to qualifying transactions would establish program eligibility by: (1) Providing spectrum to small carriers or Tribal Nations; or (2) committing to serve a certain minimum amount of rural area. We also propose measures necessary to ensure program goals are met and that the program is not abused.
The ECIP that we propose here would establish specific incentives based on the record in the Notice, and would build upon Congress' goals in the MOBILE NOW Act. The ECIP also would further certain long-standing Commission goals by facilitating transactions that promote increased spectrum access for stakeholders that will use this valuable resource efficiently and create meaningful service to rural communities. To develop a more workable solution for a variety of stakeholders, we seek comment on additional proposals on related issues that are consistent with the MOBILE NOW Act, but are based on our pre-existing authority under Title III of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, pursuant to which the Commission adopted the original partitioning and disaggregation rules. After review of the record on the Notice and as discussed below, we find it in the public interest to explore benefits for Tribal Nations choosing to participate in the ECIP; benefits for an expanded group of stakeholders participating in ECIP through rural-focused transactions; alternative performance requirements for all WRS licenses independent of the specific ECIP benefits; and a spectrum license reaggregation process. The proposals discussed below are intended to facilitate increased spectrum access, rural service, and innovative and next-generation wireless use cases, bringing increased competition to underserved areas, while also easing the administrative burden placed on both licensees and Commission staff.
FR notice Partitioning, Disaggregation, and Leasing of Spectrum: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/12/29/2021-27493/partitioning-disaggregation-and-leasing-of-spectrum