Telecom Alert - Unlicensed Use of 6 GHz Band; Rural Broadband Support Bills; COVID-19 Telehealth Program; 5G Fund for Rural America; EWA Seeks Waiver of Deadlines - Vol. XVII, Issue 14
FCC Draft Order to Authorize Unlicensed Use Throughout the 6 GHz Band
The FCC issued a draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last week that would make 1,200 MHz available for unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band (Vol. XV, Issue 44). The Report and Order would authorize two different types of unlicensed operations: standard-power in 850 MHz of the band and indoor low-power operations over the full 1,200 MHz of the band. The standard-power operations would be under the control of an automated frequency control (AFC) system that identifies available frequencies without causing harmful interference to fixed point-to-point microwave receivers. The Commission did not set aside a portion of the band for fixed microwave operations, concluding that the AFC system and combination of lower power and indoor operations across the band would protect all 6GHz band services from harmful interference. The Commission will vote on the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at its next Open Meeting scheduled for April 23.
Senate, House Introduce Rural Broadband Support Bills
The U.S. Senate (S.3569) and House (H.R.6394) introduced companion bills last week that would help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity to low-income students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate bill, known as the Keeping Critical Connections Act, would appropriate $2 billion to compensate broadband providers with less than 250,000 customers for providing free or discounted broadband services to low-income households, or for providing distance-learning capability to students. The fund would be administered by the FCC. The House introduced H.R.6394 in response.
$200 Million COVID-19 Telehealth Program Adopted
The FCC adopted a Report and Order last week that establishes a $200 million telehealth program to support healthcare providers responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program, funded by appropriations in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will help healthcare providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services. The Report and Order also establishes a separate Connected Care Pilot Program, which will provide up to $100 million in support from the Universal Service Fund to help offset health care providers’ costs of providing connected care services and to help assess how the USF can be used in the long-term to support telehealth.
FCC Considers 5G Fund for Rural America
The FCC released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order last week seeking comment on establishing a rural 5G fund that would use competitive reverse auctions to disburse up to $9 billion to support the deployment of 5G mobile broadband and voice services in rural areas. The fund would be implemented through a two-phase competitive process, with up to $8 billion available in Phase I and at least $1 billion in Phase II to support networks that will facilitate precision agriculture. It also seeks comment on the minimum speeds networks supported by the fund should provide, suggesting either 35/3 Mbps or 50/5 Mbps.
EWA Seeks Waiver of Mobile Site Construction Deadlines
The Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) filed a Petition for Waiver with the FCC on March 27 asking the Commission to waive the buildout deadline requirements for site-based and mobile-only wireless systems with deadlines between March 15 and August 31 until August 31, 2020. EWA argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has cause significant supply chain delays and limited the available workforce. Further, EWA claims that granting its petition would relieve the Commission of having to act on a large number of individual waiver requests that would otherwise be filed.