Press Release

Public Knowledge Welcomes FCC Order to Open Spectrum to Commercial Use

April 17, 2015 ,

Today, the Federal Communications Commission adopted an Order setting a framework to open 150 MHz of spectrum for commercial use. Under this framework, the Department of Defense and commercial satellite operators will operate on the same frequency bands as commercial users. The FCC will make half of the spectrum available for anyone to use under rules similar to those applied to WiFi and other “unlicensed” spectrum uses. The other half will be eligible for short-term exclusive licenses.

Additionally, the FCC raised concern that Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), a new technology Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are preparing to deploy, could have disruptive effects on WiFi and other unlicensed spectrum. Chairman Wheeler announced that the FCC would issue a public notice to gather information and facilitate cooperation between WiFi standards bodies and cellphone standards-setting bodies.

The following may be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge:

“In 1982, Congress authorized the FCC to create the ‘citizens band (CB) radio service’ so that everyone could use a mobile wireless service. Today, the FCC uses that same authority to create a ‘citizens broadband radio service.’ But just as the smartphone of today is light years more advanced than the primitive touchtone phones of 1982, the citizen’s broadband radio service represents a technological advancement light years beyond its ancient CB radio ancestor featured in ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’

“These next generation wireless technologies will do more than expand familiar technologies like smartphones and WiFi. Today’s FCC’s actions lay the groundwork for changes in the very way we use wireless, allowing different levels of interference protection and network architecture that will make the wireless world of the future as radically different as the smartphone and the WiFi hotspot are from touchtone phones and the CB radios.

“We are also very pleased that the FCC will open a docket to look at Licensed Assisted Access and the concerns Public Knowledge and others raised in this proceeding. As cable companies offer new mobile services over their WiFi footprints, the incentive for competing phone companies to try to disrupt those services grows stronger. LAA would potentially allow companies like Verizon to block wireless competition by interfering with WiFi. Although the Commission should encourage cellphone companies to take advantage of open spectrum with technologies like LTE-over-unlicensed, it should also remain vigilant against potential anticompetitive behavior.”