Advocates Ask FCC Chairman Not To Take Away 5G Spectrum From Rural America

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Today, Public Knowledge joined 20 rural advocacy organizations, rural healthcare providers, rural network operators, and public interest advocates in a letter urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to preserve the existing Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) rules that enable small providers to offer service in rural areas.

On October 23, the FCC will vote on a Report and Order in the “Promoting Investment In the 3550-3700 MHz Band” proceeding. As currently written, the FCC’s draft Report and Order will strip valuable spectrum away from providers eager to provide 5G services in rural areas, and allocate it to national carriers and large cable operators who have consistently refused to provide rural America with real, reliable and affordable broadband access.

The letter to Chairman Pai states:

“[In] this proceeding, you are actively taking spectrum that was licensed to allow rural providers eager to serve rural America to acquire licenses and handing that spectrum to large national wireless and cable companies by changing the existing rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). Nearly every rural carrier in the record -- as well as every stakeholder other than cellular providers and cable operators -- has explained that expanding license areas to larger than census tracts places the cost of licenses out of reach.

“Even counties classified as ‘rural’ often have population centers that attract bidders able to outspend the small community-based providers genuinely seeking to serve everyone -- and who rarely build out beyond the areas of highest population density and rate of return. By eliminating any census tract licenses, the draft R&O prices everyone who has committed to serve the most rural residents and businesses in America out of the market.

“We urge you and your fellow Commissioners to be genuine heroes for rural America. We beg you to stand up to the efforts of giant corporations to steal spectrum allocated for rural users and then choose not to offer all residents access to broadband. The existing CBRS rules were designed with the input of rural stakeholders to recognize the economic realities of deployment in rural America and on Tribal Lands. The changes in the draft R&O once again ignore these realities, and again threaten to leave rural America behind.”

You may view the letter here.

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