On December 17, 2020, the FCC released an Order on Reconsideration in the 2.5 GHz band matter (WT Docket No. 18-120), which had previously been adopted prior to the December Open Meeting. The Order resolves three petitions for reconsideration of the FCC’s 2019 2.5 GHz Report and Order (“R&O”), which instituted a new regulatory framework to ensure that unused spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band was put to effective use.
First, the FCC addressed a petition by the National Congress of American Indians (“NCAI”), which sought reconsideration of the FCC’s decision to limit the Tribal Priority Window to rural Tribal lands. The FCC dismissed in part and denied in part the petition. The FCC found that the NCAI petition provided no new facts or arguments that provide a basis for reconsidering its prior decision to focus the Tribal Priority Window on rural Tribal lands, rather than all Tribal lands. In adopting the R&O, the FCC considered the implication of potentially dividing rural and urban Tribal lands and found that it was not inconsistent with Congress’ intent or the FCC’s role as spectrum manager. Additionally, the FCC found that the NCAI arguments that the FCC should employ a different definition of Tribal lands lacked merit because NCAI’s proposed definition failed to adequately implement the intent of the Tribal Priority Window, i.e. permitting Tribes priority access to unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum over their own lands. Finally, the FCC rejected NCAI’s request to re-open the off-reservation designation process because the FCC had already addressed the concerns raised by NCAI through the creation of a wavier process.
Second, the FCC addressed a petition by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition and others (“SHLB”), which sought reconsideration of the FCC’s decision to eliminate eligibility restrictions and requests that the FCC create a window for additional educational use of the band. The FCC found that it had fully considered the arguments raised by SHLB in their petition prior to adopting the 2.5 GHz Report and Order and rejected them. The FCC thus dismissed the petition as procedurally improper for repeating previously raised and rejected arguments. Alternatively, the FCC found that the petition lacked merit and thus should be denied. The FCC was unpersuaded that granting EBS licensees priority access to the spectrum would result in efficient use because the record reflected that most EBS licensees did not deploy their own networks and were not in the position to do so in areas that are not already served by commercial operators. Additionally, the FCC found SHLB’s continued reliance on a “flawed study” to be unpersuasive in support of maintaining the eliminated eligibility requirements. Finally, the FCC concluded that there were no strong policy or public interest reasons to establish an educational priority window.
Finally, the FCC granted the Hawai’i Broadband Initiative’s request to withdraw its petition.
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