FCC’s November Meeting Agenda Focuses on Enabling Text-to-988 for Suicide Prevention and Spectrum Access to Close the Digital Divide

The FCC released a light agenda for its next Commission Open Meeting, scheduled for November 18, 2021. The agency will consider a Second Report and Order to require covered text providers to support text messaging to 988 by routing those texts messages to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (“Lifeline”). The FCC will next address a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) to adopt an incentive program to encourage licensees to make spectrum available to small carriers and Tribal Nations, as well as to carriers seeking to expand wireless services in rural areas. The FCC will also review a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to assess whether FM and Low Power FM (“LPFM”) broadcast radio license applicants can verify directional antenna patterns by computer modeling instead of by taking physical measurements. The FCC will close its meeting by considering a Declaratory Ruling and Order (“Order”) that would grant Knéis, a French private satellite operator, with access to the United States market so that it can support connectivity for Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices and improved data collection.

You will find more information about the items on the November meeting agenda after the break:

Enabling Text-to-988 - The Second Report and Order would adopt rules that require covered text providers to route text messages sent to 988 to the Lifeline. Covered text providers would include CMRS providers and providers of interconnected text messaging services that enable consumers to send and receive text messages (including through the use of installed or downloaded applications). The implementation date for text-to-988 would be set at July 16, 2022, which is the same deadline for voice providers (i.e., telecommunications carriers, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) providers and one-way VoIP providers) to enable end users to dial 988 to reach the Lifeline. Initially, covered text providers would only be required to support the transmission of text messages to 988 using Short Message Service format because that is the only text format the Lifeline can receive at this time. However, there would be a process whereby the Wireline Competition Bureau could expand the types of text formats that covered text providers must support as the Lifeline becomes capable of handling additional formats.

Enhanced Competition Incentive Program for Wireless Radio Services – The FNPRM would continue the FCC’s efforts to close the digital divide by promoting diversity of spectrum licensees and the availability of wireless services in rural areas. The FNPRM would propose an Enhanced Competition Incentive Program (“ECIP”) that would be available to wireless licenses for which the FCC has auctioned exclusive spectrum rights in a defined geographic area. A wireless licensee would qualify for certain benefits under the ECIP if it entered into an agreement with an unaffiliated entity to assign or lease a portion of its licensed spectrum and (1) the agreement encompassed at least 50 percent of the licensed spectrum and at least 25 percent of the licensed market area, and (2) the agreement was with a small carrier or Tribal entity or the agreement focused on a rural area. Wireless licensees that participate in the ECIP would receive a five-year extension of the license’s term, a one-year extension of the construction deadline and a modified construction requirement in rural areas. The FNPRM would also seek comment on whether a licensee should be required to use Open Radio Access Networks (“RAN”) technologies to receive ECIP benefits, alternative construction options for licensees with certain flexible use licenses (i.e., license that can be used for a variety of applications), and incentives to promote spectrum sharing.

Updating FM Radio Directional Antenna Verification – The NPRM would propose rules to address the FCC’s tentative conclusion that requiring applicants for FM and LPFM broadcast radio licenses or for modifications to those licenses to provide physical measurements to verify directional antenna patterns is outdated. The FCC’s rules currently require FM applicants to either (1) test a full-scale model of an antenna, including the tower or pole on which it is to be mounted and structures that will be in proximity to the antenna, on a test range or (2) construct a smaller, scale model of the antenna, mounting structure, and nearby structures, and then measure the signal in an indoor anechoic chamber. The NPRM would seek comment on whether the use of computer modeling is a viable option for verifying FM radio directional antenna patterns, whether the FCC should require use of a specific computer program, whether antenna manufacturers or broadcast engineers generally prefer a certain computer model to accurately analyze FM radio directional antenna patterns, and whether the FCC’s policies are effective in resolving interference complaints or disputes pertaining to the directional FM antennas.

Knéis Low-Earth Orbit Satellites Market Access - The Order would grant a petition and waiver request by Knéis, a private satellite operator, to access the United States market using a network of 25 low-Earth orbit (“LEO”) satellites authorized by France and operating on frequencies in the non-voice, non-geostationary mobile-satellite service and earth exploration-satellite service. The Order would grant Kinéis permission to use the 399.9-400.05 MHz and 401-403 MHz bands for uplink and the 400.15-401 MHz band for downlink, subject to certain conditions. Knéis would rely on these frequencies to support connectivity for IoT devices used in the maritime, agricultural, logistics, outdoor sports, security, and scientific sectors. The Kinéis satellite system would be compatible with the Argos data collection system (a worldwide network of data collection satellites managed by France’s space agency, together with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and would facilitate implementation of the next generation of the Argos system. Five of the satellites would monitor maritime communications in the 156.7625-162.0375 MHz band thereby enhancing maritime domain awareness. The Order would also require Kinéis to obtain approval of its orbital debris mitigation plans prior to commencing service.