The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court, issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
At its May 15, 2014, Open Meeting the FCC took the following actions:
Net Neutrality Rules
The FCC voted to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open Internet. Comments are due July 15, 2014; reply comments are due September 10, 2014. See our blog FCC Moves Forward With Proposal For Net Neutrality Rules for more information. TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers watch for a bulletin.
The FCC also adopted rules to implement the Broadcast Television Incentive Auction. The two-sided auction will use market forces to recover spectrum from television broadcasters who voluntarily choose to give up some or all of their spectrum usage rights in exchange for incentive payments, in order to auction new spectrum licenses to wireless providers. The auction is intended to help meet the increased demand for mobile broadband services. The new rules establish the foundation for the Incentive Auction. Based on these rules the FCC will develop and seek additional public input on detailed, final auction procedures in the pre-auction process. There are four parts to the rules implementing the Incentive Auction: 1) The reorganized 600 MHz Band, including repacking and unlicensed operations; 2) The Incentive Auction process and design; 3) The post-auction transition for all incumbents in the 600 MHz band; and 4) Post-transition regulatory issues, including channel sharing. The Incentive Auction will consist of a reverse auction in which broadcasters may voluntarily choose to relinquish some or all of their spectrum usage rights and a forward auction in which the relinquished spectrum is made available to wireless providers. The rules integrate the reverse and forward auctions in a series of stages; each stage will consist of a reverse auction and a forward auction bidding process aimed at a specific clearing target.
Mobile Spectrum Holdings Policies
The FCC adopted a Report and Order revising rules for its mobile spectrum holding policies. For the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction, the FCC established a market-based reserve of no more than 30 megahertz of spectrum targeted for providers that hold less than 1/3 of available low-band spectrum in a license area. The rules are designed to encourage participation by both small and large providers and to ensure no one or two providers can “run the table.” The FCC did not set auction-specific spectrum aggregation limits for qualified bidders in the AWS-3 auction, regardless of their existing spectrum holdings. The FCC also addressed two interrelated areas. First, in connection with reviews of proposed transactions, the FCC added and removed spectrum to the screen to reflect spectrum that is currently suitable and available for mobile broadband. If a proposed transaction would result in a wireless provider holding approximately 1/3 or more of available spectrum licenses in a given market, that transaction will continue to trigger a more detailed, case-by-case competitive analysis. For transactions involving low-band (below 1 GHz) spectrum, the FCC will continue to use a case-by-case review of these transactions. Aggregation of approximately 1/3 or more of available low-band spectrum will be an “enhanced factor” in the competitive analysis of a proposed transaction.
The FCC also expanded the license eligibility for qualifying users of wireless microphones. The new rules expand Part 74 license eligibility to include professional sound companies and venues that routinely use 50 or more wireless microphones, where the use of wireless microphones is an integral part of the major productions or events they host. The FCC concluded that these users generally have the same need for interference protection as existing Part 74 licensees and the sophisticated knowledge and capability to manage use and coordination of a large number of wireless microphones.