FCC Issues Order Staying Implementation of 4.9 GHz Band Sixth R&O

On Thursday, May 27, 2021, the FCC released an Order in the Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules (WP Docket No. 07-100) proceeding, granting a stay of the Sixth Report and Order (“Sixth R&O”) pending the resolution of several outstanding Petitions for Reconsideration.   As a reminder, the Sixth R&O revised the rules governing the 4.9 GHz band to allow a single statewide licensee in each state to lease some or all of its spectrum rights to third parties, regardless of whether the third party engaged in public safety operations.  Several industry organizations, including the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (“PSSA”), filed Petitions for Reconsideration, concerned that the new framework would interfere with the availability and use of the 4.9 GHz spectrum for public safety operations and would fail to protect current and future public safety users.  PSSA filed the present Petition for Stay, arguing that the stay will allow the Commission to provide “administrative certainty and efficiency” to the proceeding.

The Commission granted the stay, finding that a stay was in the public interest because the Petitions for Reconsideration raised serious questions deserving of appropriate consideration and there is possibility of irreparable harm to current and future safety users of the spectrum and the Commission’s goals to facilitate greater use of the spectrum.  The Commission noted its concern that allowing fragmentation of the band on a state-by-state basis could create incentives for individual states to make use of the spectrum for revenue generation that does not serve the interest of public safety and could potentially undermine operators’ ability to upgrade their networks.  The Commission further found that allowing partial implementation of the Sixth R&O only for it to be reconsidered would “cause confusion and could irreparably complicate” the Commission’s objectives.  The stay will remain in effect until the petitions for reconsideration are decided.

Commissioner Carr dissented and issued a statement disappointed that the decision to stay will return the outdated 4.9 GHz band rules to “the broken framework of the past.”

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