Press Release

Public Knowledge Urges FCC to Reject Package Bidding Proposal in CBRS PALS Auction

September 26, 2019 , , , , , , ,

Today, the Federal Communications Commission approved a Public Notice proposing application and bidding procedures for the auction of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in the 3.5 GHz Band Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). Public Knowledge has long supported the innovative spectrum licensing framework adopted for the CBRS and urges that it should serve as a model for future spectrum allocations. However, Public Knowledge opposes the FCC’s proposal to permit package bidding for PALs by Cellular Market Area (CMA). 

The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Policy Director at Public Knowledge: 

“Today’s proposal, if adopted, would retreat even further from the original PALs design. In its Public Notice, the Commission seeks comment on a proposal to allow for package bidding by CMA. If adopted, this proposal would effectively abandon the decision the FCC reached just a year ago to establish county-size licenses for the PALs and would prove detrimental to the agency’s goal of closing the digital divide.

“One of the key benefits of the original PALs design was to license 70 megahertz of the CBRS spectrum by census tract, making it more likely that small wireless providers, WISPs, municipalities, and other entities could acquire critical mid-band spectrum and serve local communities that have been left on the wrong side of the digital divide. The Commission then spent two years needlessly delaying progress on CBRS to ultimately abandon census tract-size licenses for county-size licenses at the behest of the largest wireless carriers. At the time, Public Knowledge explained that the FCC’s rule changes were likely to reduce the likelihood that the PALs are ever used to deploy wireless service to rural communities and reduce participation in the PALs auctions. 

“If ultimately adopted, today’s proposal to allow package bidding for the PALs in some areas would exacerbate the mistake the Commission made a year ago. CMAs with large cities will likely be acquired almost exclusively by the largest nationwide wireless carriers, and the economics of network deployment coupled with the propagation characteristics of mid-band spectrum would likely mean that exurban areas and small towns within the CMA are never served by PAL holders. The Commission’s proposal is counterproductive for an agency that proclaims its chief priority is closing the digital divide. The Commission should ultimately reject the proposal to permit package bidding for PALs.”