5G and Broadband Infrastructure in the Spotlight at August FCC Meeting

The FCC will focus on 5G spectrum and the infrastructure supporting next-generation broadband services at its meeting planned for August 2, 2018. Continuing its push to make more spectrum available for flexible wireless use to support 5G technologies, the FCC teed up two major spectrum-related items for its August Open Meeting, which comes hot on the heels of its July 12 meeting. The items would open up 1.55 GHz of spectrum for commercial use through two auctions, with the first auction set to begin later this year. The FCC also plans to take a major step forward in supporting broadband deployment by adopting a long-anticipated one-touch make-ready” regime for pole attachments, while taking aim at deployment moratoria. Rounding out the major items, the FCC will seek comment on launching a $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program. The proposed items maintain the trend of jam-packed Summer FCC meetings (which will then take a break until September 26) and will be sure to generate input from all communications industry sectors. You will find more details on the significant August FCC items after the jump:

Spectrum Frontiers Auctions: The FCC issued a draft Public Notice in its ongoing Spectrum Frontiers proceeding establishing application and bidding procedures to auction 850 MHz of spectrum in the 28 GHz band and 700 MHz of spectrum in the 24 GHz band. The spectrum would be made available for flexible wireless use to support 5G technologies. The FCC plans to start the 28 GHz band auction by mid-November 2018, with the 24 GHz band auction following soon afterward. The agency would apply its standard auction rules to each proceeding to facilitate participation in both auctions. In addition, the FCC released a draft proposed rulemaking seeking comment on service rule changes for the 39 GHz band, which along with the upper 37 GHz band, represents the largest amount of contiguous spectrum available for flexible use in the millimeter wave bands. The FCC anticipates freeing up this spectrum through an incentive auction tentatively planned for 2019. Comments will be due September 17, 2018 and replies on October 8, 2018.

One-Touch Make-Ready: A draft Order and Declaratory Ruling would allow the vast majority” of pole attachments to follow a one-touch make-ready process, in which new attachers may elect to perform all of the work to prepare a pole to hold new facilities without relying on the pole owner. The FCC also plans to codify its existing precedent regarding the overlashing” of new facilities to current attachments, while eliminating disparities between the pole attachment rates paid by incumbent telecommunications carriers versus cable and other telecommunications attachers. In addition, the draft would clarify that state and local moratoria on telecommunications services and facilities deployments are preempted under federal law.

$100 Million Connected Care Pilot Program: The FCC plans to adopt a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) seeking input on a proposed $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program” to support telehealth services delivered to low-income Americans. The proposed program would draw money from the Universal Service Fund, potentially lowering the funds available to other programs (it notes the reduced spending on the Lifeline Program), and the FCC is looking for comments on the appropriate application procedures, supported services and equipment, support amounts, eligibility criteria, and duration for the pilot program. The NOI asks a lot of open questions, but also seeks comment on restricting the pilot program to projects that would involve new or upgraded deployments or upgrades to existing facilities and whether to only partner with facilities-based eligible telecommunications carriers (“ETCs”), which would be consistent with the agency’s proposal in late 2017 to limit the Lifeline Program to facilities-based ETCs. Comments will be due 30 days after the NOI is released and reply comments are due 60 days after release.