FCC Seeks Comment on Process for Relicensing 700 MHz Spectrum in Unserved Areas

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FCC rules require Lower 700 MHz A, B, and E Block licensees to provide reliable service sufficient to cover 35 percent of the geographic area of their licenses within four years and 70 percent within ten years (the license term). Upper 700 MHz C Block licensees must provide reliable service sufficient to cover 40 percent of the population of their license area within four years and 75 percent within ten years. For licensees that fail to meet the applicable interim benchmark, the license term will be accelerated by two years. The earliest accelerated end-of-term deadline is June 13, 2017; this accelerated deadline applies to Upper C Block licensees that failed to meet the interim construction deadline by June 13, 2013, and to Lower A and B Block licensees that failed to meet the interim construction deadline by December 13, 2016.  Under the “keep-what-you-serve” (KWYS) rules, if a licensee fails to meet its end-of-term construction deadline, its authorization to operate will terminate automatically for those geographic areas where it is not providing service on the date of the end-of-term deadline, and those areas will become available for reassignment by the Commission. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (Bureau) has now released a Public Notice seeking comment on its proposed approach to this process.

In order to implement the KWYS rules, the Bureau proposes and seeks comment on a process whereby licensees would demonstrate the “served” area of the license by filing a shapefile showing a smooth enclosed 40 dBµV/m field strength contour (Smooth Contour)
of existing facilities as of the end-of-term deadline. The portion of the license market covered by the Smooth Contour would be deemed “served” for the purposes of the KWYS rule and become the reduced licensed area that the licensee “keeps.” The comment deadline will be 20 days after the item is published in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.

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