FCC Proposes Rules to Encourage Rural Spectrum Access


    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) has adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing an enhanced competition incentive program to encourage licensees to offer small carriers and Tribal Nations opportunities to obtain spectrum via lease, partition, or disaggregation.  Transactions that qualify for the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program (ECIP) would be those that facilitate spectrum use by entities unaffiliated with the licensee where at least 50% of the licensed spectrum goes to an assignee or a lessee through either a small carrier or Tribal Nation transaction or through a “rural-focused” transaction.  As an incentive to enter into such transactions, licensees would be offered three primary benefits: (1) a five-year extension of the license terms for all parties to a qualifying transaction; (2) a one-year extension of construction deadlines for all parties to a qualifying transaction in a partition and/or disaggregation, and to the lessor in a qualifying lease; and (3) alternate construction requirements for partition and disaggregation in rural-focused transactions.  The FNPRM also proposes other measures to enhance competition and expand wireless deployment in rural areas, including alternative construction benchmarks for all wireless radio service licensees to promote innovative spectrum use, voluntary mechanisms and incentives to promote spectrum sharing, and flexibility to reaggregate licenses.

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