On July 11, 2019, the Commission released the Report and Order (“R&O”) in the Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band proceeding that allows for commercial use of the 2496-2690 MHz (“2.5 GHz band”) spectrum (WT Docket No. 18-120), which was adopted in the July Open Meeting. The R&O replaces an outdated regulatory framework with a more flexible regime designed to increase flexibility for existing Educational Broadband Service (“EBS”) licensees and provide new opportunities for rural Tribal Nations and other commercial entities to access unused portions of the band.
There were two significant changes adopted in the R&O from the previously released draft item: (1) inclusion of bidding credits for EBS and (2) the adoption of a revised band plan involving three overlay licenses, rather than two.
- The Commission adopts bidding credits for “small businesses” and “very small businesses,” as well as for rural service providers and Tribal land service providers, similar to those used in recent auctions. Qualifying “small businesses” will receive a bidding credit of 15% and qualifying “very small businesses” will receive a bidding credit of 25%. Qualifying rural service providers will receive a 15% bidding credit, while a bidder serving qualifying tribal lands will receive a credit as well. The Commission also notes that it plans to adopt a bidding credit cap that will be established after future public comment.
- The Commission adopts a band plan that includes three overlay licenses, instead of the two overlay license plan previously detailed in the draft R&O. These licenses are broken up into a 49.5 MHz block, a 50.5 MHz block, and a 16.5 MHz block.
On October 25, 2019, the Commission published the Report and Order in the Federal Register thus establishing the following effective dates:
The amended rules are effective April 27, 2020, with the exception of the rules adopting the Tribal priority window and new performance requirements (Sections 27.14(u) and (v), and Section 27.1204) which are effective November 25, 2019. However, the requirements in Sections 27.14(u) and (v) contain new information collection requirements subject to OMB approval that has not yet been received, and the compliance dates of these rule requirements will be published in a future Federal Register publication. Section 27.14(u) outlines the performance requirements for EBS licenses initially issued after today’s date, October 25, 2019, requiring compliance by filing a notification of construction with the Commission within 15 days of the expiration of the applicable benchmark. Section 27.15(v) directs OMB approval of the requirements contained in Section 27.14(u). Section 27.1204 establishes the Tribal Priority Filing Window, which similarly requires OMB approval and will be effective at a later date.
On Friday, November 15, 2019, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB”) and Office of Economics and Analytics (“OEA”) released a Public Notice (“Notice”) seeking comment on the small business standards sized used to determine eligibility for bidding credits in the 2.5 GHz band auction for EBS licenses, as outlined in the 2.5 GHz Report and Order (WT Docket No. 18-120).
The WTB and OEA now seek comment on the definitions of a “small business” as an entity that, together with its affiliates, its controlling interests, and the affiliates of its controlling interests, has average gross revenues that are not more than $55 million for the preceding five years, and a “very small business” as an entity that, together with its affiliates, its controlling interests, and the affiliates of its controlling interests, has average gross revenues that are not more than $20 million for the preceding five years. As established in the 2.5 GHz Report and Order, a winning small business bidder would be eligible for a 15% bidding credit, and a winning very small business bidder would be eligible for a 25% bidding credit.
On December 19, 2019, the Commission published the Public Notice in the Federal Register therefore establishing the following comment dates:
Comments are due January 21, 2020.
Reply Comments are due February 3, 2020.
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