[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 110 (Thursday, June 7, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 26396-26409]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-12183]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Parts 1 and 27

[WT Docket No. 18-120; FCC 18-59]


Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Federal Communications Commission 
(Commission or FCC) seeks comment on proposed service rules on the 2.5 
GHz band and on refinements to the adopted rules in this document.

DATES: Comments are due on or before July 9, 2018; reply comments are 
due on or before August 6, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by WT Docket No. 18-120, 
by any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Federal Communications Commission's Website: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings. Follow the instructions for submitting 
comments.
     People With Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request 
reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language 
interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: FCC504@fcc.gov, phone: 202-418-0530 
or TTY: 202-418-0432.
    For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional 
information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John J. Schauble of the Wireless 
Telecommunications Bureau, Broadband Division, at 202-418-0797 or by 
email to John.Schauble@fcc.gov. For information regarding the PRA 
information collection requirements contained in this PRA, contact 
Cathy Williams, Office of Managing Director, at (202) 418-2918 or 
Cathy.Williams@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Notice 
of Proposed Rulemaking, WT Docket No. 18-120, FCC 18-59, adopted and 
released on May 10, 2018. The complete text of this document is 
available for public inspection and copying from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
Eastern Time (ET) Monday through Thursday or from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 
ET on Fridays in the FCC Reference Information Center, 445 12th Street 
SW, Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. The complete text is available 
on the Commission's website at http://wireless.fcc.gov, or by using the 
search function on the ECFS web page at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/. 
Alternative formats are available to persons with disabilities by 
sending an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or by calling the Consumer & 
Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 
(tty).

Comment Filing Procedures

    Pursuant to Sec. Sec.  1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 
47 CFR 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments and reply 
comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of this 
document. Comments may be filed using the Commission's Electronic 
Comment Filing System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in 
Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).
     Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the internet by accessing the ECFS: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings. Filers should follow the instructions provided on the website 
for submitting comments. In completing the transmittal screen, filers 
should include their full name, U.S. Postal Service mailing address, 
and the applicable docket number, WT Docket No. 18-120.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must 
file an original and one copy of each filing. If more than one docket 
or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers 
must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number.
    Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial 
overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service 
mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, 
Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
     All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings 
for the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 
445 12th St. SW, Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours 
are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together 
with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be 
disposed of before entering the building.
     Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9050 Junction Dr., 
Annapolis Junction, Annapolis, MD 20701.
     U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority 
mail must be addressed to 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554.
    People With Disabilities: To request materials in accessible 
formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic 
files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the 
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 888-
835-5322 (tty).

Ex Parte Rules--Permit-But-Disclose

    Pursuant to Sec.  1.1200(a) of the Commission's rules, this NPRM 
shall be treated as a ``permit-but-disclose'' proceeding in accordance 
with the Commission's ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte 
presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a 
memorandum summarizing any oral presentation within two business days 
after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to the 
Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations 
are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1) list 
all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at 
which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data 
presented and arguments made during the presentation. If the 
presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data 
or arguments already reflected in the presenter's written comments, 
memoranda or other filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide 
citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments, 
memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or 
paragraph numbers where such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of 
summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents

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shown or given to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed 
to be written ex parte presentations and must be filed consistent with 
Sec.  1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by Sec.  1.49(f) or for which 
the Commission has made available a method of electronic filing, 
written ex parte presentations and memoranda summarizing oral ex parte 
presentations, and all attachments thereto, must be filed through the 
electronic comment filing system available for that proceeding, and 
must be filed in their native format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, 
searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding should familiarize 
themselves with the Commission's ex parte rules.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (``RFA''), 
the Commission has prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(``IRFA'') of the possible significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities of the policies and rules proposed in the 
NPRM. The Commission requests written public comment on the analysis. 
Comments must be filed in accordance with the same deadlines as 
comments filed in response to the NRPM and must have a separate and 
distinct heading designating them as responses to the IRFA.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This document contains proposed new or modified information 
collection requirements. The Commission, as part of its continuing 
effort to reduce paperwork burdens, invites the general public and the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comment on the information 
collection requirements contained in this document, as required by the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13. In addition, 
pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 
107-198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4), the Commission seeks specific 
comment on how it might further reduce the information collection 
burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees.

Synopsis

I. Introduction

    1. The 2.5 GHz band (2496-2690 MHz) constitutes the single largest 
band of contiguous spectrum below 3 gigahertz and has been identified 
as prime spectrum for next generation mobile operations, including 5G 
uses. Significant portions of this band, however, currently lie fallow 
across approximately one-half of the United States, primarily in rural 
areas. Moreover, access to the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) has 
been strictly limited since 1995, and current licensees are subject to 
a regulatory regime largely unchanged from the days when educational TV 
was the only use envisioned for this spectrum. The Commission proposes 
to allow more efficient and effective use of this spectrum band by 
providing greater flexibility to current EBS licensees as well as 
providing new opportunities for additional entities to obtain unused 
2.5 GHz spectrum to facilitate improved access to next generation 
wireless broadband, including 5G. The Commission also seeks comment on 
additional approaches for transforming the 2.5 GHz band, including by 
moving directly to an auction for some or all of the spectrum.

II. Background

    2. EBS, formerly known as ITFS (Instructional Television Fixed 
Service), permits the transmission of instructional material for the 
formal education of students by accredited public and private schools, 
colleges, and universities.
    3. Currently, eligibility to hold an EBS license is limited to (1) 
accredited public and private educational institutions, (2) 
governmental organizations engaged in the formal education of enrolled 
students, and (3) nonprofit organizations whose purposes are 
educational and include providing educational and instructional 
television materials to accredited institutions and governmental 
organizations. EBS licenses generally are held by state government 
agencies, state universities and university systems, public community 
and technical colleges, private universities and colleges, public 
elementary and secondary school districts, private schools (including 
Catholic school systems and other religious schools), public television 
and radio stations, hospitals and hospital associations, and other non-
profit educational entities.
    4. EBS licensees operate in 114 megahertz of the 2.5 GHz band; the 
remaining 80 megahertz is assigned to the Broadband Radio Service 
(BRS). EBS licensees are authorized to operate on the A, B, C, D, and G 
channel groups, with each group comprised of three 5.5 MHz channels in 
the lower or upper band segment and one 6 MHz channel in the mid-band 
segment. Since 1983 the Commission has allowed EBS licensees to lease 
their excess capacity to commercial providers, but it has required EBS 
licensees to retain five percent of their capacity for educational use, 
and it further has required that they use each channel at least 20 
hours per week for educational purposes.
    5. Currently, there are 1,300 EBS licensees holding over 2,190 
licenses. EBS licenses generally are based on a 35-mile radius circular 
Geographic Service Area (GSA) (with an area of 1934 square miles), 
although due to a historical license modification process the 
Commission adopted in 2005, many EBS licenses have much smaller, 
irregular GSAs. Incumbent EBS licenses cover only about one half of the 
geographic area of the United States in any given channel. In the rest 
of the country, mostly rural areas west of the Mississippi River, the 
2.5 GHz spectrum remains unassigned. There is some EBS spectrum 
unassigned in urban areas as well, but such spectrum generally is only 
available in small, irregularly shaped areas between GSAs that are 
considerably smaller than the area of a 35-mile radius circle.
    6. The Commission suspended the processing of EBS applications in 
1993. Only twice since then has the Commission opened filing windows 
for EBS applications. In 1995, the Commission provided a five-day 
window for the filing of applications for new construction permits and 
for major changes to existing EBS facilities. And in 1996, the Mass 
Media Bureau announced a sixty-day window for the filing of a limited 
class of applications, but during that window, it only permitted the 
filing of EBS modification applications and amendments to pending EBS 
applications proposing to co-locate with an authorized wireless cable 
facility.
    7. During the past 20 years, the Commission, on several occasions, 
has considered assigning EBS spectrum licenses by auction. Most 
recently, the Commission in 2008 decided to use competitive bidding to 
license unassigned BRS spectrum but held that a ``broader record should 
be developed on how to distribute licenses for unassigned EBS 
spectrum,'' and it sought further comment on how to license unassigned 
EBS spectrum in the BRS/EBS Second FNPRM.
    8. In response to the BRS/EBS Second FNPRM, commenters proposed 
various alternative licensing schemes, including awarding licenses 
through a comparative point system; permitting only consortia to apply 
for a Basic Trading Area (BTA) license (an area consisting of several 
counties surrounding a common commercial center); permitting existing 
licensees to expand their respective GSAs to the borders of the BTA, 
which would

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eliminate all white space and in turn, eliminate the need to file 
applications for new licenses (``GSA maximization''); and permitting 
licensees to expand their respective GSAs to the borders of the BTA 
after accepting applications for new stations (reverse GSA 
maximization). Subsequently, on June 6, 2014, the Catholic Technology 
Network, the National EBS Association, the Wireless Communications 
Association International, and the Hispanic Information and 
Telecommunications Network, Inc. proposed a multi-step process for 
licensing unassigned EBS spectrum. Unused EBS spectrum, however, has 
remained generally unavailable since 1995.

III. Discussion

    9. In accordance with the Commission's goal of making additional 
spectrum available for flexible use, and to promote use of 2.5 GHz 
frequencies that have been unassigned for far too long, the Commission 
proposes and seeks comment on a number of steps to encourage and 
facilitate more efficient use of this spectrum. First, given the 
irregularity of current EBS geographic service areas (as well as 
outdated regulatory requirements), the Commission proposes to 
rationalize existing EBS holdings so that existing licensees have new 
opportunities to put 2.5 GHz spectrum to its highest and best use. 
Second, the Commission seeks comment on whether to open one or more 
local priority filing windows so that existing licensees, Tribal 
Nations, and educational entities could get access to unassigned 
spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. Third, the Commission proposes to use 
geographic area licensing to assign any remaining spectrum, which may 
result in the auction of any licenses for 2.5 GHz spectrum still 
unassigned after rationalizing holdings and any new filing windows. 
Finally, the Commission seeks comment on additional approaches for 
transforming the 2.5 GHz band, including by moving directly to an 
auction for some or all of the spectrum. The Commission believes the 
proposed changes discussed herein will reduce unnecessary regulatory 
burdens on licensees, promote greater spectrum efficiency, and 
facilitate the full use of EBS spectrum to provide advanced mobile 
broadband services, particularly in rural areas where this spectrum 
sits idle today.

A. Rationalizing Existing 2.5 GHz Holdings

    10. Ensuring that the radio spectrum is used efficiently and 
intensively is an important public interest goal--a goal that also 
serves the interests of the existing licensees. The Commission 
traditionally has recognized that a spectrum policy based on flexible 
use in regular geographic areas has several advantages. Such flexible 
use licensing can promote broadband deployment, ensure the spectrum is 
put to its most beneficial use, allow licensees to respond to consumer 
demand for new services, and maximize the probability of success for 
new services.
1. Regular Geographic License Areas
    11. As an initial step, the Commission proposes to rationalize the 
GSAs of existing EBS licensees, except grandfathered licensees in the E 
and F Channel groups, to a defined geographic area, namely, the sum of 
census tracts that are covered by, or that intersect, a licensee's 
existing GSA. The Commission proposes that such rationalization should 
occur automatically (i.e., the Commission would update our licensing 
records to reflect the change), so existing licensees would not be 
required to file applications with the Commission or otherwise notify 
the Commission to effectuate this change.\1\
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    \1\ The Commission notes that it followed a similar automatic 
process when ITFS licensees were awarded a protected service area 
(``PSA''), the precursor to a GSA, and when the PSA was expanded 
from 15 miles to 35 miles. The Commission also notes that pursuant 
to our existing rules, grandfathered EBS licensees on the E and F 
channel groups would not be permitted to expand their GSAs. 47 CFR 
27.1216. Pursuant to 47 CFR 27.1216, because there may be both EBS 
and BRS stations on the same channels in the same market, 
grandfathered E and F group EBS channels have previously been 
limited in their ability to expand their GSAs. This may still be the 
case. The Commission seeks comment on whether rationalizing the 
holdings of grandfathered EBS licensees on the E and F channel 
groups would be feasible, whether the Commission could use a similar 
rationalization scheme as proposed herein for EBS generally, and 
whether doing so would facilitate more intensive use of 2.5 GHz 
spectrum.
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    12. The Commission seeks comment on whether such expansion should 
include every census tract that is covered by or that intersects the 
licensee's existing GSA. Alternatively, should a census tract be 
included only if a minimum percentage of that census tract overlaps the 
GSA, and, if so, what should that minimum percentage threshold be 
(e.g., 10 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent)? The Commission also seeks 
comment on whether, if the Commission adopts a minimum percentage 
overlap threshold, that minimum percentage should be a percentage of 
the census tract's geography or of the census tract's population.
    13. Second, the Commission proposes that, in this rationalization 
process, each current EBS GSA will be converted to a single license 
made up of all the census tracts it covers or intersects, rather than 
converted to a collection of separate licenses, each the size of a 
single census tract. The Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
    14. Finally, the Commission seeks comment on how to resolve 
situations in which two or more co-channel GSAs overlap the same census 
tract(s), and whether simply setting the threshold for required overlap 
at 50 percent in order to include the census tract in the GSA is the 
best way to address such a situation. Are there other ways to address 
situations in which co-channel GSAs overlap the same census tracts?
    15. Modifying EBS licenses to GSAs based on census tracts should 
generate two particular benefits. First, since census tract boundaries 
are pre-determined and follow regular geographic separation patterns 
(e.g., divisions based on streets), the boundaries of census tract-
based GSAs should be easier to determine than a circular GSA that cuts 
across regular geographic boundaries.
    16. Second, rationalizing incumbent EBS licenses based on census 
tracts would yield white spaces that also are based on the boundaries 
of census tracts and/or counties (since census tracts nest into 
counties), rather than irregular shapes and slivers. This regularity in 
the shape and size of white spaces would facilitate new entry into the 
2.5 GHz band. The Commission seeks comment on these views. Commenters 
should discuss the costs and benefits of such a license area change.
    17. As an alternative to basing GSAs on census tracts, the 
Commission seeks comment on whether the Commission should expand 
existing GSAs to include the counties covered by or that intersect the 
GSA. Under this alternative, the Commission seeks comment on whether to 
include a county only if a minimum percentage of the county overlaps 
the GSA and, if so, what that minimum percentage should be (e.g., 50 
percent, 75 percent). The Commission also seeks comment on whether, if 
it adopts a minimum percentage overlap threshold, that the minimum 
percentage should be a percentage of the county's geography or of the 
county's population. In addition, the Commission seeks comment on how 
to resolve situations where more than one EBS licensee is in the same 
county, and whether and to what extent automatic expansion on a county 
basis will result in inefficient use of spectrum.
    18. The Commission also seeks comment on any other issue that may 
arise from rationalizing existing EBS

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holdings and allowing EBS licensees to apply to expand their GSA 
boundaries. In addition to the criteria stated above, are there any 
other requirements that existing licensees should satisfy in order to 
be permitted to expand into the vacant area of a county? For instance, 
should the right to expand to county boundaries be limited to licensees 
that provide service to a given percentage of that county? If so, what 
should the minimum percentage be? Should the minimum percentage be a 
percentage of the county's geography or of the county's population? 
Should the Commission establish a requirement that the incumbent 
licensee's GSA cover a minimum percentage of the area in a county 
before it is allowed to expand into the remainder of the county? In the 
alternative, should the Commission simply have existing licensees 
maintain their current contours, rather than rationalizing existing 
holdings? Commenters should discuss cost and benefits of any advocated 
approach and support their position with quantitative and qualitative 
data.
2. Additional Flexibility for EBS Licenses
    19. Granting additional flexibility to EBS licensees has been an 
effective means of allowing better use of the 2.5 GHz band. In 1983, 
when the Commission allowed 2.5 GHz licensees to lease excess capacity, 
it provided educators with another means of acquiring the resources 
needed to operate Instructional Television Fixed Source (ITFS) 
facilities for education. In 2004, when the Commission created BRS and 
EBS, the more flexible technical rules allowed the bands to be used for 
broadband services. Now, significant amounts of commercial broadband 
data flow through the 2.5 GHz band. The Commission believes subsequent 
events have confirmed the Commission's prediction that ``consumer 
benefits will be maximized if BRS/EBS licensees are able to take 
advantage of the flexible use standard in Part 27.'' The Commission now 
seeks comment on granting additional flexibility to EBS licensees in 
order to promote more intensive and efficient spectrum use.
    20. First, the Commission proposes to provide EBS licensees with 
the flexibility to assign or transfer control of their licenses to 
entities that are not EBS-eligible. Specifically, the Commission 
proposes to eliminate the limit on what entities can hold EBS licenses 
(rule 27.1201) and make clear that licensees may assign or transfer 
control of their licenses to other entities. The Commission notes that 
the existing licensees have built out their systems since 2011 and 
understand how they use their EBS licenses as well as the availability 
of wireless broadband in their area. Under this proposal, the decision 
whether to lease or transfer a license would rest with the EBS 
licensee.\2\ There is little reason to think that, at this point in 
time, the Commission is better positioned than licensees themselves to 
determine how to maximize the use of 2.5 GHz spectrum for licensees and 
their communities. And there is little reason to think that licensees 
should not be allowed to decide for themselves whether to continue to 
hold their licenses or to transfer their licenses to a third party in 
the secondary market. The Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
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    \2\ If the EBS licensee's lease provides for an option or right 
or right of first refusal with respect to a license, the provisions 
of the contract would apply, subject to the requirement that all 
assignments and transfers of Commissions licenses are subject to 
Commission consent.
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    21. EBS licensees whose licenses were granted via waiver since the 
EBS filing freeze was instituted are currently prohibited from leasing 
the spectrum. Consistent with our consideration of providing additional 
secondary-markets flexibility to existing EBS licensees, the Commission 
proposes to eliminate any special restrictions on such licensees; 
accordingly, those whose licenses were granted via waiver would have 
the same flexibility to lease their spectrum or to transfer or assign 
their licenses as the Commission proposes for other EBS licensees. The 
Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
    22. The Commission also seeks comment on eliminating the 
educational use requirements for EBS licensees. The educational use 
requirements, which have not been updated since 1998 were based on the 
use of analog video and permitted many administrative uses to fulfill 
the educational requirement. However, most EBS licensees or their 
commercial lessees are providing digital broadband service, offered 24/
7, at the school itself, at home, or anywhere within the licensee's 
GSA. It appears the existing educational use requirements are out of 
date and do not fit the actual use of the spectrum. Given the 
additional flexibility the Commission is granting EBS licensees, the 
Commission seeks comment on whether there is value in attempting to 
update the educational use requirements--who is better positioned to 
determine the highest and best use of 2.5 GHz spectrum, the Commission 
or licensees? Commenters should explain and quantify the benefits and 
costs of these regulatory requirements, including whether to update 
them (and if so, how).
    23. The Commission also proposes to eliminate the current 
restrictions on EBS lease terms. Under existing rules, EBS licensees 
are prohibited from leasing their facilities for a term longer than 30 
years and lessees are required to provide EBS lessors with the 
opportunity to revisit their lease terms at years 15, 20, and 25 to 
review their ``educational use requirements in light of changes in 
educational needs, technology, and other relevant factors and to obtain 
access to such additional services, capacity, support, and/or equipment 
as the parties shall agree upon in the spectrum leasing arrangement to 
advance the EBS licensee's educational mission.'' To that end, the 
Commission proposes to eliminate these lease restrictions on a going-
forward basis.\3\ The Commission also seeks comment on any other 
revisions needed to fully rationalize our rules for the 
transferability, leasing, and use of EBS spectrum. Are there other 
restrictions that unnecessarily reduce the ability of licensees to put 
this spectrum to its highest and best use?
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    \3\ While the Commission proposes to eliminate EBS-specific 
term-related restrictions for leases, the Commission does not 
propose to eliminate the requirement that lease notifications must 
be refiled for each new license term.
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    24. Finally, the Commission asks whether, in light of the actions 
the Commission takes in this proceeding, it should modify our treatment 
of EBS in the spectrum screen. In the Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report 
and Order, the Commission concluded that it was necessary to include 
most EBS spectrum into the spectrum screen ``to reflect today's 
marketplace realities.'' While the Commission found that EBS spectrum 
generally was suitable and available for the provision of mobile 
telephony/mobile broadband services, it did apply a discount. 
Specifically, the Commission first excluded the five percent of the EBS 
capacity that is reserved for educational uses because it remains 
committed to EBS spectrum serving educational purposes. Second, it 
excluded the EBS white space. After taking these discounts into 
consideration, the Commission, in 2014, included 89 megahertz of EBS 
spectrum in the screen. Are any changes to this treatment warranted? 
Should the Commission reconsider the spectrum aggregation screen?

B. Opportunities To Acquire New 2.5 GHz Licenses

    25. Once the Commission has rationalized the holdings of existing

[[Page 26400]]

EBS licensees, unassigned portions of the 2.5 GHz band will be ready 
for new assignment--bringing new opportunities to rural communities 
that have lacked access to this spectrum before. The Commission 
proposes to use geographic area licensing to assign any remaining 
spectrum, which should result in the auction of licenses for unassigned 
portions of the 2.5 GHz band and seek comment on whether it should 
first open up to three new local priority filing windows to give 
existing licensees, Tribal Nations, and educational entities an opening 
to access 2.5 GHz spectrum to serve their local communities. The 
Commission also proposes build-out requirements for these new licenses 
to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to benefit from the 
2.5 GHz band.
1. New Local Priority Filing Windows
    26. When the Commission reopened applications for the 2.5 GHz band 
in 1985, it expressed a ``strong preference'' for local applicants in 
the licensing process. The Commission found then that local applicants 
were ``convincingly demonstrated . . . to be the best authorities for 
evaluating their educational needs and the needs of others they propose 
to serve in their communities,'' to ``best understand the educational 
needs . . . of their communities,'' and to ``act most responsibly in 
designing and developing [2.5 GHz] systems.'' It thus opened a ``local 
priority period'' to give ``more local entities . . . the opportunity 
to fill more channels as financial support from non-[instructional] use 
becomes more widespread.''
    27. Now that the Commission is again opening the 2.5 GHz band for 
additional licensing, the Commission starts by seeking comment on 
whether the Commission should open up to three new filing windows for 
qualifying applicants that want to use currently unassigned 2.5 GHz 
spectrum to serve their local communities. In each filing window, 
qualifying applicants would have the opportunity to apply for one or 
more vacant channels of EBS spectrum in areas where the applicant can 
show it has a local presence. The first filing window would be for 
existing EBS licensees, the second for Tribal Nations, and the third 
for other educational entities. The Commission seeks comment on whether 
the Commission should open any new local priority filing windows, if 
any, as well as the details of such windows in turn.
    28. In responding, commenters should discuss whether such priority 
filing windows to assign licenses is consistent with our statutory 
authority to assign licenses that could be used for telecommunications, 
and Commission policy and precedent regarding use of competitive 
bidding. Also, should these entities be given preference over others, 
in light of other benefits provided to these entities, such as various 
Universal Service programs, including E-Rate and the Connect America 
Fund? The Commission also seeks comment on whether such filing windows 
can be misused and result in unjust enrichment, with licenses being 
sold or leased to ineligible entities for profit. What effect might 
these priority windows have on the attractiveness of the remaining 
spectrum for other applicants? Should the Commission have one combined 
priority window for these entities, or the three the Commission seeks 
comment on below?
    29. Local Presence. When the Commission previously created a local 
priority period, it defined as ``local'' those ``institutions and 
organizations that are physically located in the community, or 
metropolitan area, where service is proposed.'' The Commission proposes 
for any new local priority filing window, should the Commission choose 
to implement this approach, to similarly require an applicant to 
demonstrate, as part of the application process, that it is physically 
located within the license area applied for. The Commission seeks 
comment on this requirement and what it would mean in practice. For 
example, should a college or university be considered to be physically 
located in any area in which it has a campus? Should an entity created 
by a state or local government for the purpose of serving formal 
educational needs, such as a public school or a school district, be 
considered to be physically located in every area where it has a school 
building? Should having a physical or mailing address within a 
particular area, be sufficient to demonstrate that the applicant has a 
local presence within that area? Are there any situations in which 
simply having some sort of physical address is not indicative of the 
local presence of an applicant? Commenters should discuss whether the 
proposed definition of local presence would serve the public interest 
and provide any relevant qualitative and quantitative data to support 
their positions.
    30. Commenters also should address what documentation applicants 
must provide to make such a demonstration. Should the determination of 
whether an applicant is considered to have a local presence be based 
solely on an applicant's physical location(s) and/or physical 
address(es)? Commenters should discuss other factors that should be 
considered and explain how any factors that they suggest will ensure 
that the local priority filing window is available only to local 
applicants. The Commission also seeks comment any other issues that it 
may need to address to implement a local presence requirement.
    31. The Commission notes that the majority of current EBS 
licensees, such as school districts, schools, colleges and 
universities, appear to have a local presence where they have licenses. 
It also appears that the entities most likely to be affected by a local 
presence requirement are the ``national'' licensees. Although national 
licensees serve a purpose in providing educational services to 
educational institutions and students, educational entities with a 
local presence have a closer understanding of the needs of their local 
communities and are more likely to use 2.5 GHz spectrum to meet such 
needs, especially in rural areas. Entities with a local presence are 
part of the communities they wish to serve, and requiring local 
presence would increase the likelihood that the EBS spectrum would be 
put to beneficial use for local communities. The Commission seeks 
comment on these views.
    32. Local Priority Filing Window 1: Existing Licensees. If the 
Commission decides to use priority filing windows, the Commission seeks 
comment on whether it should open a window for existing EBS licensees. 
Opening such a window would allow existing licensees that are already 
providing service in a significant portion of a county (and have a 
local presence in that county) to expand their service to the county 
border.\4\ Existing licensees have already deployed service throughout 
a portion may be best positioned to quickly put the white-spaces in 
their local area to use through an edging-out strategy. In addition, 
since a number of school districts are based on county boundaries, 
allowing county expansion could allow county-based school districts to 
better provide services to the students within their districts, and in 
many cases, to provide services to those students at home, as well as 
on school premises. Alternatively, such a window would preclude other 
applicants from accessing 2.5 GHz white spaces, including new entrants 
long excluded from the band. The Commission seeks

[[Page 26401]]

comment on opening such a local priority filing window.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ To be clear, should another licensee already hold licenses 
for census tracts in that county, the Commission would not intend 
the county-expansion to encompass those areas.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    33. Were the Commission to open such a window, it would propose to 
limit participation to existing licensees as of the adoption of this 
NPRM.\5\ Setting a firm, fixed date allows all commenters and the 
Commission to easily discern what entities would be potential 
applicants for this window should the Commission adopt it. Furthermore, 
applicants in this window would be limited to seeking county-based 
licenses only in counties where they have a local presence. And 
finally, applicants in this window would be limited to seeking county-
based licenses only where they hold, after the rationalization of 
existing license areas, licenses on a particular channel that cover at 
least 25 percent of census tracts in a county. The Commission seeks 
comment on these conditions. In particular, what adjustments to these 
conditions, if any, would be appropriate to ensure that the goals of 
such a window would be met? For example, should the Commission require 
licensees to hold licenses covering even more of a county (say 50 
percent of census tracts)? Or should the Commission require that a 
local presence of the licensee lie inside the county but outside the 
already-licensed area of the licensee (under a theory that licensees 
should be permitted to expand to cover areas where they have a physical 
presence but otherwise restricted so that new licensees have the 
opportunity to participate in the 2.5 GHz band)?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ The Commission seeks comment on whether holders of special 
temporary authority (an STA) who are not full-fledged licensees 
should qualify for such a window. Should the Commission expect them 
to have the permanent facilities in place to quickly expand service 
to the county edge?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    34. What other conditions, if any, should the Commission adopt on 
participants in such a window? For example, should the Commission 
exclude channels in counties in which more than one existing licensee 
would qualify for expansion on a single channel? If so, how would the 
Commission determine all counties in which existing licensees meet the 
local presence requirement? Alternatively, should the Commission only 
exclude channels in counties in which more than one licensee holds 
licenses covering at least 25 percent of the census tracts in the 
county? Should the Commission exclude tribal areas that are contained 
within a county that would be subject to the Tribal Nations window 
discussed below? The Commission seeks comment on these and any other 
issues related to opening a new local priority filing window for 
existing licensees.
    35. Local Priority Filing Window 2: Rural Tribal Nations. The 
Commission seeks comment on whether the Commission, if it decides to 
pursue this approach, should open a new local priority filing window 
for rural Tribal Nations. The Commission has recognized that ``members 
of federally-recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native 
Villages and other residents of Tribal lands have lacked meaningful 
access to wired and wireless communications services.'' Opening such a 
window would allow rural Tribal Nations an opportunity to access 2.5 
GHz spectrum to address educational and communications needs of their 
communities and residents on rural Tribal lands, including the 
deployment of advanced wireless services to areas that have too long 
been without. Alternatively, such a window would preclude other 
applicants from accessing 2.5 GHz white spaces. The Commission seeks 
comment on opening such a local priority filing window.
    36. Were the Commission to open such a window, it would propose to 
limit participation to federally-recognized American Indian Tribes and 
Alaska Native Villages located in rural areas.\6\ Such a request would 
appear to comport with Native Public Media's request to open the 2.5 
GHz band to Indian Tribes and Tribal Governments to account for the 
special trust relationship between Tribal Nations and the Federal 
Government and the fact that Native Americans are acutely 
underrepresented in communications media. Furthermore, applicants in 
this window would be limited to seeking new licenses only in rural 
areas where they have a local presence--that would include rural Tribal 
lands associated with the Tribal Nation itself. The Commission seeks 
comment on how much of the license area would need to be Tribal lands 
to qualify. Would 25 percent be sufficient? 50 percent? The Commission 
further seeks comment on how to define rural Tribal lands for these 
purposes. Should the Commission use the definition of rural Tribal 
lands used for E-rate program and Lifeline; i.e., Tribal Lands that are 
not part of ``an urbanized area or urban cluster area with a population 
equal to or greater than 25,000''? The Commission asks commenters to 
discuss any issues that may arise out of a particular definition of 
Tribal Lands. The Commission seeks comment on whether to exclude lands 
that currently are not inhabited by members of the Tribal Nations and/
or are held as private property from the definition. To this end, the 
Commission requests comment on how to ensure that the only entities 
eligible to participate in this filing window are entities that meet 
our definition of a Tribal Nation, and whose Tribal lands are lands 
where tribal members reside as a group and are not used for purely 
commercial purposes. The Commission seeks comment on these conditions. 
In particular, what adjustments to these conditions, if any, would be 
appropriate to ensure that the goals of such a window would be met?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Alternatively, should the Commission authorize any ``Native 
American Tribal entity'' to participate, including any entity that 
is listed on the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's currently 
published list of Indian Tribes recognized to be eligible for the 
special programs and services provided by the United States to 
Indians because of their status as Indians? See The Federally 
Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 (Indian Tribe Act, Pub. L. 
103-154, 108 Stat. 4791 (1994)) (Indian Tribe Act).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    37. The Commission next seeks comment on whether licenses granted 
for white spaces in such a local priority window should be at the 
county level or on a census-tract-by-census-tract basis. Commenters 
should discuss why a particular geographic area size would be 
appropriate taking into account all relevant information, including 
border interference coordination needs, propagation characteristics of 
the band, and the services that will be offered. The Commission notes 
that using a smaller license area (census tracts) would increase the 
fit between areas licensed to Tribal Nations and Tribal lands, but may 
have offsetting efficiency losses. Commenters should discuss the costs 
and benefits of any advocated approach and support their position with 
quantitative and qualitative data.
    38. The Commission also proposes that, if it were to adopt such a 
local priority filing window, it would not limit the number of channels 
that a Tribal Nation could acquire. Given the state of wireless 
technologies (including the use of progressively wider channels), the 
Commission believes that allowing access to contiguous spectrum on any 
number of available channels would more efficiently accommodate varying 
business models and spectrum needs for wireless broadband. The 
Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
    39. Finally, the Commission seeks comment on any other ways by 
which it could encourage the use of 2.5 GHz spectrum on Tribal Lands. 
Should the Commission impose any additional obligations to ensure that 
Tribal Nations hold 2.5 GHz licenses for the benefit of their Tribal 
community? The Commission seeks comment on these and any other issues 
related to opening a new local priority filing window for

[[Page 26402]]

Tribal Nations, and in particular it seeks government-to-government 
consultation and coordination with federally recognized Tribes on these 
issues and the input of inter-Tribal government associations and Native 
representative organizations.
    40. Local Priority Filing Window 3: New Educational Entities. To 
the extent that the Commission implements any filing windows, it seeks 
comment on whether the Commission should open a new local priority 
filing window for educational entities that do not currently hold any 
2.5 GHz licenses. Opening such a window would allow new educational 
entities that have never had the opportunity to benefit from holding 
and using 2.5 GHz spectrum (and that have a local presence in a 
particular area) the opportunity to access this spectrum for the first 
time. The Commission notes that the majority of requests for waiver of 
the current filing freeze have come from educators with a local 
presence in the communities that they wish to serve. Alternatively, 
such a window would preclude the auction of any licenses for remaining 
2.5 GHz white spaces. The Commission seeks comment on opening such a 
local priority filing window.
    41. Were the Commission to open such a window, it would propose to 
limit participation to accredited institutions as well as governmental 
organizations engaged in the formal education of enrolled students who 
are not 2.5 GHz licensees as of the adoption of this NPRM.\7\ Setting a 
firm, fixed date allows all commenters and the Commission to easily 
discern what entities would be potential applicants for this window 
should it adopt it. Furthermore, applicants in this window would be 
limited to seeking licenses only in areas where they have a local 
presence. The Commission seeks comment on these conditions. In 
particular, what adjustments to these conditions, if any, would be 
appropriate to ensure that the goals of such a window would be met?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ As before, the Commission seeks comment on whether holders 
of special temporary authority (an STA) who are not full-fledged 
licensees should qualify for such a window.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    42. The Commission next seeks comment on whether licenses granted 
for white spaces in such a local priority window should be at the 
county level or on a census-tract-by-census-tract basis. Commenters 
should discuss why a particular geographic area size would be 
appropriate taking into account all relevant information, including 
border interference coordination needs, propagation characteristics of 
the band, and the services that will be offered. Since a number of 
school districts are based on county boundaries, would allowing county-
based licenses allow county-based school districts to better provide 
services to the students within their districts, and in many cases, to 
provide services to those students at home, as well as on school 
premises? Commenters should discuss the costs and benefits of any 
advocated approach and support their position with quantitative and 
qualitative data.
    43. The Commission also proposes that, if it were to adopt such a 
local priority filing window, it would not limit the number of channels 
that a new educational entity could acquire. Given the state of 
wireless technologies (including the use of progressively wider 
channels), the Commission believes that allowing access to contiguous 
spectrum on any number of available channels would more efficiently 
accommodate varying business models and spectrum needs for wireless 
broadband. The Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
    44. Local Priority Filing Process. The Commission seeks comment on 
the appropriate time frame for any new local priority filing windows. 
How long should the Commission keep this window open, and how much 
notice should be given to applicants before the filing window opens? 
For example, should each such filing window last 30 days with at least 
90 days' notice to potential applicants of the licenses available? The 
Commission asks entities that are interested in participating in the 
application window and obtaining 2.5 GHz licenses to indicate their 
interests and the difficulties that they may face to help us evaluate 
any possible technical and process issues that may arise in 
implementing one or more new local priority filing windows for 
applicants and processing such applications. Given technical 
limitations of the Universal Licensing System (ULS), the Commission 
notes that it may not be able to accept applications for all available 
EBS licenses in one general filing window. If that is the case, and the 
Commission divides the available licenses among multiple filing 
windows, how should such division be implemented: by region; by 
population, with the most populous States first or last; 
alphabetically; or by some other method? The Commission seeks comment 
on these and related issues.
    45. Resolving Mutually Exclusive Applications. The Act requires 
that, if the Commission accepts mutually exclusive applications for 
initial spectrum licenses, the Commission ``shall grant the license . . 
. through a system of competitive bidding.'' The Commission assigns 
licenses for commercial and private internal use through competitive 
bidding in order to place the licenses in the hands of the parties that 
value them most highly and that are able to use them most effectively. 
If the Commission decides to create one or more local priority filing 
windows, as discussed here, it would result in relatively few mutually 
exclusive applications, but such a result is not precluded. Therefore, 
should the Commission receive mutually exclusive applications, it must 
use competitive bidding to assign initial licenses subject to mutually 
exclusive applications. The Commission seeks comment on limiting such 
competitive bidding to the mutually exclusive applicants in that 
particular filing window, however. In addition, the Commission proposes 
to employ the part 1 rules governing competitive bidding design, unjust 
enrichment, application and payment procedures, reporting requirements, 
and the prohibition on certain communications between auction 
applicants. The Commission does not propose to adopt designated entity 
provisions. Under this proposal, such rules would be subject to any 
further modifications that the Commission may adopt for its part 1 
general competitive bidding rules in the future. The Commission seeks 
comment on this proposal.
    46. The also seeks comment on whether to allow a settlement window 
for the filers to resolve any mutual exclusivity before the Commission 
accept any application for a 2.5 GHz license. The Commission also seeks 
comment on any alternative ``engineering solutions, negotiation, 
threshold qualifications, service regulations, and other means'' \8\ of 
avoiding mutually exclusive applications for new licenses that might 
further the public interest and comply with the Act.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ 47 U.S.C. 309(j)(6)(E).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    47. Holding Periods for Licenses Acquired through a Local Priority 
Filing Window. The Commission seeks comment on whether to impose a 
special holding period on any license acquired through a local priority 
filing window, if any. Although the Commission generally seeks to 
facilitate the free transfer of licenses among parties, granting 
certain entities local priority filing windows is premised on the idea 
that such entities are uniquely qualified to hold spectrum licenses and 
ensures that the licenses are put to their highest and best use--
something that

[[Page 26403]]

could not occur if such an entity quickly flipped that license to 
another, nonqualifying entity. Should the Commission expect that these 
licenses are likely to be used by the licensee, or that they ultimately 
will be leased or sold to others who are not eligible for the priority 
preference? Should the Commission implement a holding period that 
deters the lease or sale of spectrum to ineligible entities? What 
factors should the Commission consider in establishing a holding 
period? What is the most appropriate length for a holding period so as 
to alleviate concerns involving any potential for speculative behavior 
or acquisition of 2.5 GHz licenses by entities that do not have a bona 
fide interest in providing service? Would a three, five, or seven-year 
or more holding period be most appropriate for these circumstances? In 
determining the appropriate length of holding period, should the 
Commission consider the chances for and mitigate the potential unjust 
enrichment by those receiving a priority preference? Are there 
additional steps that should be taken to ensure that entities are not 
unjustly enriched? Should the Commission require the licensee to 
demonstrate completion of certain buildout requirements before allowing 
a transfer of control? Should the Commission prohibit an EBS licensee 
that is granted a license during one of the local priority windows 
proposed herein from leasing 100 percent or some other percentage of 
their capacity to a commercial entity during the holding period? The 
Commission seeks comment on these issues.
    48. For EBS licenses granted via the local priority windows 
proposed above, the Commission proposes to require that licensees must 
reserve a minimum of 20 percent of the capacity of their channels for 
educational uses that ``further the educational mission of accredited 
public and private schools'' consistent with paragraphs (b) and (c) of 
Sec.  27.1203 of the Commission's rules and may not enter into spectrum 
leasing arrangements involving this reserved capacity. For EBS 
licensees that choose to provide a broadcast-type service, the 
Commission proposes to require such licensees to offer 20 hours per 
channel, per week of educational programming. The Commission seeks 
comment on these proposals.
2. Licensing White Spaces
    49. The Commission proposes, after any new licenses have been 
assigned through one or more local priority filing windows should the 
Commission choose to implement that approach, that any remaining 2.5 
GHz spectrum \9\ be made available for commercial use via competitive 
bidding. The Commission proposes that it would conduct an auction for 
licenses of EBS spectrum in conformity with the general competitive 
bidding rules set forth in part 1, subpart Q, of the Commission's 
rules. As proposed above for mutually exclusive applications filed in 
the three EBS filing windows, the Commission proposes to employ the 
part 1 rules governing competitive bidding design, unjust enrichment, 
application and payment procedures, reporting requirements, and the 
prohibition on certain communications between auction applicants. The 
Commission also proposes not to apply designated entity preferences in 
this auction. The Commission seeks comment on this proposal.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ In the BRS/EBS Second FNPRM, the Commission sought comment 
on a variety of issues related to licensing EBS spectrum in the Gulf 
of Mexico. The Commission need not address whether to eliminate 
restrictions on EBS spectrum in the Gulf of Mexico because, as 
explained herein, the Commission proposes to eliminate restrictions 
on all remaining ``white space'' EBS spectrum and make it available 
for commercial use via competitive bidding.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    50. The Commission seeks comment on the appropriate geographic size 
of new 2.5 GHz white space licenses (e.g., county, census tract, or 
something else) and the size of the channel blocks (e.g., existing 
channels or the entire available band). Commenters should discuss the 
costs and benefits of adopting their proposed geographic area size and 
channel block size and why such area and channel block sizes would 
serve the public interest taking into account all the characteristics 
of this band.
    51. Consistent with our longstanding approach, the Commission would 
initiate a public notice process to solicit public input on certain 
details of auction design and the auction procedures. This public 
notice process would address auction-specific matters such as the 
competitive bidding design and mechanisms, minimum opening bids and/or 
reserve prices, caps on bidding credits, and payment procedures. In 
advance of the auction, another public notice would announce the 
auction procedures and provide detailed instructions for potential 
auction participants. The Commission also seeks comment on whether any 
of our part 1 rules should be modified for an auction of licenses in 
these frequency bands.
3. Requirements for New 2.5 GHz Licenses
    52. The current performance requirements for licensees in the 2.5 
GHz band were set forth in 2006, as part of the ongoing efforts to 
transition the band to the new band plan established in 2004. The 2006 
BRS/EBS Second Report and Order established a substantial service 
regime for BRS and EBS licensees and required licensees to demonstrate 
compliance by May 1, 2011. The 2006 BRS/EBS Second Report and Order 
also established specific safe harbors, including 30 percent population 
coverage for mobile or point-to-multipoint use, or six permanent links 
per million for fixed point-to-point services. The 2006 BRS/EBS Second 
Report and Order also established an educational safe harbor for EBS 
licensees, consisting of 20 hours of educational use per channel, per 
week. In 2010, the Commission established a new requirement for new BRS 
licenses issued after November 6, 2009: The licensee must make a 
showing of substantial service within four years from the date of issue 
of the license. The Commission seeks comment on how effective these 
performance requirements have been.
    53. Last year, the Commission adopted a unified regulatory 
framework for the Wireless Radio Services (WRS) that replaced the 
existing patchwork of service-specific rules regarding renewal, 
comparative renewal, continuity of service, and partitioning and 
disaggregation, with clear, consistent rules of the road for WRS 
licensees. The Commission included BRS in the new WRS framework, but 
excluded EBS from the WRS framework on the ground that ``this service 
presents unique issues that are under consideration in'' this present 
proceeding.
    54. Performance Requirements for New 2.5 GHz Licenses. The 
Commission proposes more robust performance requirements for any new 
2.5 GHz licenses granted through a local priority filing window or a 
system of competitive bidding. For mobile and fixed point-to-multipoint 
services, the Commission proposes an interim benchmark of 50 percent 
population coverage and a final benchmark of 80 percent population 
coverage. For fixed point-to-point services, the Commission proposes an 
interim benchmark of 20 point-to-point links per million persons (one 
link per 50,000 persons) in a license area, and a final benchmark of 40 
point-to-point links per million persons (one link per 25,000 persons) 
in a licensed area. These benchmarks are slightly higher than those for 
the AWS-3 and WCS bands (which have similar propagation 
characteristics) given the maturity of technologies already developed 
and deployed in the 2.5 GHz band. For educational broadcast

[[Page 26404]]

services, the Commission seeks comment on an interim benchmark of 50 
percent population coverage and a final benchmark of 80 percent 
population coverage. The Commission seeks comment on these performance 
benchmarks and on any other requirements that may be more appropriate 
for this band. Are there considerations specific to this band that 
would warrant a different approach? Are there new technological 
developments, or issues specific to the 2.5 GHz band, that render a 
usage-based approach or any other approach suitable here? When should 
the interim benchmark showing be required? What penalty should apply to 
licensees that do not meet it? In addition, because the Commission 
seeks comment on whether to adopt a licensing framework based on census 
tracts, the Commission also seeks comment on how such a framework would 
affect performance requirements. Is there some other method of 
evaluating meaningful service, beyond traditional metrics, that might 
be more appropriate considering the size of license areas? The 
Commission also seeks comment on whether there are other more 
appropriate construction requirements for educational services.
    55. Renewal Standards. The Commission also proposes to bring any 
new 2.5 GHz licenses granted through a local priority filing window or 
a system of competitive bidding into the unified regulatory renewal 
framework for WRS. The Commission believes that updating the renewal 
standards in this manner will encourage rapid deployment of next 
generation wireless services, including 5G. The Commission also seeks 
comment on bringing existing EBS licensees, once their licenses have 
been rationalized as discussed earlier, into the WRS framework for 
license renewal. What are the costs and benefits of each approach?

C. Cleaning Up the 2.5 GHz Rules

    56. The process for transitioning BRS and EBS licensees to the new 
band plan was completed in 2011. While a few Multichannel Video 
Programming Distributors have received waivers to opt out of the 
transition so that they can continue providing service, all other 
licensees have transitioned to the new band plan. It therefore appears 
that the transition rules are no longer necessary.\10\ The Commission 
believes it is in the public interest to eliminate regulations that are 
out of date and no longer necessary. The Commission therefore proposes 
to eliminate the BRS/EBS transition rules.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ Should an MVPD operator decide that it wishes to 
discontinue video service and transition to the new band plan, it 
can follow the process established by the Wireless 
Telecommunications Bureau in Antilles Wireless, LLC d/b/a USA 
Digital, et al., Order on Reconsideration, 25 FCC Rcd 8052, 8058, 
paras. 13-14 (WTB 2010).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    57. The Commission also proposes to make various non-substantive, 
clarifying amendments to Sec.  27.1206. The proposed changes are 
contained in the Proposed Rules. The changes are designed to make the 
rules easier to understand without changing the substantive 
requirements for BRS. The Commission seeks comment on these proposed 
changes.

D. Additional Approaches for Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band

    58. The Commission seeks comment on other approaches to 
rationalizing and opening up the 2.5 GHz band for more productive and 
intensive use. Generally, are there better ways to restructure the 2.5 
GHz band that will ensure that it is put to its highest and best use? 
In particular, the Commission seeks comment on other licensing and 
auction ideas and alternatives to the local priority filing window 
approach. Commenters should provide information about the costs and 
benefits of any approach suggested.
    59. For instance, should the Commission, regardless of the scope of 
incumbent operations, create new geographic area licenses? If so, what 
types of geographic area licenses should the FCC create? Should the 
Commission license the spectrum based on census tracts or counties or 
some other size? Commenters should discuss whether their view of the 
appropriate geographic area size changes if the Commission is 
considering licenses that encompass more than the white spaces 
previously discussed, and if so why. Additionally, what channel size or 
sizes should the Commission use in licensing this spectrum?
    60. If the FCC were to adopt this approach, how would the 
Commission account for reasonable investment-backed expectations and 
incumbent operations? Would a different approach than those considered 
in section III.A. above be preferable, and if so why? For example, 
should the Commission convert incumbent licenses into new, flexible use 
spectrum licenses that would be subject to its secondary market rules? 
If so, how? Should our approach to incumbent licensees depend on or 
consider the existing and/or historic use of the spectrum by those 
incumbent licensees, including, for instance, the construction of 
facilities or degree to which the spectrum has consistently been put to 
use?
    61. Should the Commission consider moving directly to auction for 
this spectrum, rather than open priority filing windows for certain 
entities? In section III.B.2, the Commission seeks comment on 
auctioning the white spaces, but, instead, should the Commission 
consider other auction options, such as an incentive auction of this 
spectrum in order to provide incentives for incumbents to make 
underutilized spectrum available for commercial use? In particular, 
should the Commission rely on Sec.  6402 of the Spectrum Act, now 
codified at 47 U.S.C. 309(j)(8)(G) (or some other source of authority) 
to encourage incumbent licensees to relinquish voluntarily some or all 
of their spectrum usage rights to permit the assignment of new initial 
licenses subject to flexible-use service rules? Are there other means 
of assigning licenses and promoting more efficient uses that the 
Commission should consider, such as an overlay auction \11\ or other 
auction mechanisms? The Commission seeks comment on the implications of 
moving directly to auction.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ In an overlay auction, the auction winner acquires spectrum 
rights ``subject to the exclusion of overlapping, co-channel 
incumbent'' licensees. Typically, if an incumbent license cancels or 
is forfeited, the overlay licensee automatically acquires the right 
to operate in the area formerly covered by the incumbent license.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    62. Regardless of the particular approach the Commission takes to 
facilitate more intensive use of the 2.5 GHz spectrum, should the 
Commission allow all entities that are interested in using this 
spectrum the same opportunity to acquire licenses in this band? In 
other words, should the Commission not adopt local priority filing 
windows or otherwise grant preferential treatment to potential 
licensees based on their identity or other criteria?

IV. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    63. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as 
amended (RFA), the Commission has prepared this Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the possible significant economic impact 
on a substantial number of small entities by the policies and rules 
proposed in the NPRM. Written public comments are requested on this 
IRFA. Comments must be identified as responses to the IRFA and must be 
filed by the deadlines for comments provided on the first page of the 
NPRM. The Commission will send a copy of this NPRM, including this 
IRFA,

[[Page 26405]]

to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration 
(SBA). In addition, the NPRM and IRFA (or summaries thereof) will be 
published in the Federal Register.

A. A. Need for, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules

    64. In the NPRM, the Commission take steps to permit more flexible 
use of the 2496-2690 MHz (2.5 GHz) band by current EBS licensees and to 
provide new opportunities for EBS eligible entities, Tribal Nations, 
and commercial entities to obtain unused 2.5 GHz spectrum to facilitate 
improved access to next generation wireless broadband, including 5G, 
for both educational and commercial uses. As mentioned in the NPRM, 
roughly half of EBS spectrum currently is unassigned, while the other 
half is assigned in geographic areas of various sizes and shapes and is 
subject to unique use and transfer restrictions. The irregularity in 
the current geographic service areas, combined in some cases with 
outdated regulatory requirements has impeded the efficient deployment 
of services, such as mobile broadband, in this spectrum band. 
Consistent with the Commission's goal of making additional spectrum 
available for flexible use, and to promote use of EBS frequencies that 
have been unassigned for far too long, the Commission proposes and 
seeks comment on a number of steps to encourage and facilitate more 
efficient use of the 2.5 GHz band. Additionally, since the process for 
transitioning BRS and EBS licensees to the new band plan was completed 
in 2011, the Commission proposes to eliminate the BRS/EBS transition 
rules. The Commission believes it is in the public interest to 
eliminate these regulations that are out of date and no longer 
necessary.

B. B. Legal Basis

    65. The proposed actions are authorized pursuant to Sections 1, 2, 
3, 4(i), 7, 201, 301, 302, 303, 304, 307, 308, 309, and 310 of the 
Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151, 152, 154(i), 
157, 201, 301, 302, 303, 304, 307, 308, 309, 310 and Section 706 of the 
Telecommunications Act of 1996, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 1302.

C. C. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which 
the Proposed Rules Will Apply

    66. The RFA directs agencies to provide a description of, and, 
where feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that may be 
affected by the proposed rules and policies, if adopted. The RFA 
generally defines the term ``small entity'' as having the same meaning 
as the terms ``small business,'' ``small organization,'' and ``small 
governmental jurisdiction.'' In addition, the term ``small business'' 
has the same meaning as the term ``small business concern'' under the 
Small Business Act. A ``small business concern'' is one which: (1) Is 
independently owned and operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of 
operation; and (3) satisfies any additional criteria established by the 
SBA.
    67. Small Businesses, Small Organizations, Small Governmental 
Jurisdictions. Our actions, over time, may affect small entities that 
are not easily categorized at present. The Commission therefore 
describes here, at the outset, three broad groups of small entities 
that could be directly affected herein. First, while there are industry 
specific size standards for small businesses that are used in the 
regulatory flexibility analysis, according to data from the SBA's 
Office of Advocacy, in general a small business is an independent 
business having fewer than 500 employees. These types of small 
businesses represent 99.9 percent of all businesses in the United 
States which translates to 28.8 million businesses.
    68. Next, the type of small entity described as a ``small 
organization'' is generally ``any not-for-profit enterprise which is 
independently owned and operated and is not dominant in its field.'' 
Nationwide, as of August 2016, there were approximately 356,494 small 
organizations based on registration and tax data filed by nonprofits 
with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
    69. Finally, the small entity described as a ``small governmental 
jurisdiction'' is defined generally as ``governments of cities, 
counties, towns, townships, villages, school districts, or special 
districts, with a population of less than fifty thousand.'' U.S. Census 
Bureau data from the 2012 Census of Governments indicate that there 
were 90,056 local governmental jurisdictions consisting of general 
purpose governments and special purpose governments in the United 
States. Of this number there were 37,132 General purpose governments 
(county, municipal and town or township) with populations of less than 
50,000 and 12,184 Special purpose governments (independent school 
districts and special districts) with populations of less than 50,000. 
The 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data for most types of governments in the 
local government category show that the majority of these governments 
have populations of less than 50,000. Based on this data the Commission 
estimates that at least 49,316 local government jurisdictions fall in 
the category of ``small governmental jurisdictions.''
    70. Wireless Telecommunications Carriers (except Satellite). This 
industry comprises establishments engaged in operating and maintaining 
switching and transmission facilities to provide communications via the 
airwaves. Establishments in this industry have spectrum licenses and 
provide services using that spectrum, such as cellular services, paging 
services, wireless internet access, and wireless video services. The 
appropriate size standard under SBA rules is that such a business is 
small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. For this industry, U.S. 
Census Bureau data for 2012 show that there were 967 firms that 
operated for the entire year. Of this total, 955 firms had employment 
of 999 or fewer employees and 12 had employment of 1,000 employees or 
more. Thus under this category and the associated size standard, the 
Commission estimates that the majority of wireless telecommunications 
carriers (except satellite) are small entities.
    71. Broadband Radio Service and Educational Broadband Service. 
Broadband Radio Service systems, previously referred to as Multipoint 
Distribution Service (MDS) and Multichannel Multipoint Distribution 
Service (MMDS) systems, and ``wireless cable,'' transmit video 
programming to subscribers and provide two-way high-speed data 
operations using the microwave frequencies of the BRS and EBS 
(previously referred to as the Instructional Television Fixed Service 
(ITFS)).
    72. BRS--In connection with the 1996 BRS auction, the Commission 
established a small business size standard as an entity that had annual 
average gross revenues of no more than $40 million in the previous 
three calendar years. The BRS auctions resulted in 67 successful 
bidders obtaining licensing opportunities for 493 Basic Trading Areas 
(BTAs). Of the 67 auction winners, 61 met the definition of a small 
business. BRS also includes licensees of stations authorized prior to 
the auction. At this time, based on our review of licensing records, 
the Commission estimates that of the 61-small business BRS auction 
winners, based on our review of licensing records, 48 remain small 
business licensees. In addition to the 48 small businesses that hold 
BTA authorizations, there are approximately 86 incumbent BRS licensees 
that are considered small entities (18 incumbent BRS licensees do not 
meet the small business size standard). After adding the

[[Page 26406]]

number of small business auction licensees to the number of incumbent 
licensees not already counted, there are currently approximately 133 
BRS licensees that are defined as small businesses under either the SBA 
or the Commission's rules.
    73. In 2009, the Commission conducted Auction 86, the sale of 78 
licenses in the BRS areas. The Commission offered three levels of 
bidding credits: (i) A bidder with attributed average annual gross 
revenues that exceed $15 million and do not exceed $40 million for the 
preceding three years (small business) received a 15 percent discount 
on its winning bid; (ii) a bidder with attributed average annual gross 
revenues that exceed $3 million and do not exceed $15 million for the 
preceding three years (very small business) received a 25 percent 
discount on its winning bid; and (iii) a bidder with attributed average 
annual gross revenues that do not exceed $3 million for the preceding 
three years (entrepreneur) received a 35 percent discount on its 
winning bid. Auction 86 concluded in 2009 with the sale of 61 licenses. 
Of the ten winning bidders, two bidders that claimed small business 
status won 4 licenses; one bidder that claimed very small business 
status won three licenses; and two bidders that claimed entrepreneur 
status won six licenses.
    74. EBS--Educational Broadband Service has been included within the 
broad economic census category and SBA size standard for Wired 
Telecommunications Carriers since 2007. Wired Telecommunications 
Carriers are comprised of establishments primarily engaged in operating 
and/or providing access to transmission facilities and infrastructure 
that they own and/or lease for the transmission of voice, data, text, 
sound, and video using wired telecommunications networks. Transmission 
facilities may be based on a single technology or a combination of 
technologies.'' The SBA's small business size standard for this 
category is all such firms having 1,500 or fewer employees. U.S. Census 
Bureau data for 2012 show that there were 3,117 firms that operated 
that year. Of this total, 3,083 operated with fewer than 1,000 
employees. Thus, under this size standard, the majority of firms in 
this industry can be considered small.
    75. In addition to Census data, the Commission's Universal 
Licensing System indicates that as of March 2018 there are 1,300 
licensees holding over 2,190 active EBS licenses. The Commission 
estimates that of these 2,190 licenses, the majority are held by non-
profit educational institutions and school districts, which are by 
statute defined as small businesses.

D. D. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements

    76. The Commission expects the rules proposed in the NPRM will 
impose new or additional reporting or recordkeeping and/or other 
compliance obligations on small entities as well as other EBS licensees 
and EBS eligible entities. The Commission discusses it proposals and 
the obligations that would result below, and seeks comment on these 
matters, including cost and benefit analyses supported by quantitative 
and qualitative data from the parties in the proceeding.
    77. Rationalizing the GSAs of incumbent EBS Licensees. The 
Commission proposes to rationalize the GSAs of incumbent EBS licensees, 
except grandfathered licensees in the E and F Channel groups, to a 
defined geographic area, namely, the sum of census tracts that are 
covered by, or that intersect with, a licensee's existing GSA. The 
Commission proposes that, in this rationalization process, each current 
EBS GSA will be converted to a single license made up of all the census 
tracts it covers, rather than converted to a collection of separate 
census tract-sized licenses. The Commission also proposes that EBS 
licensees with a local presence in a county be given the opportunity to 
apply to expand their GSA to the boundaries of a county where they have 
a local presence. Licensees who take advantage of that option would be 
subject to new performance requirements. As an alternative to basing 
GSAs on census tracts, the Commission seeks comment on whether it 
should expand existing GSAs to include the county (or counties) covered 
by or that intersect the GSA.
    78. Additional Flexibility for EBS Licenses. The Commission 
proposes to provide EBS licensees with the flexibility to assign or 
transfer control of their licenses to entities that are not EBS-
eligible. To provide additional flexibility and to facilitate the most 
efficient use of the EBS spectrum through a market-based mechanism, the 
Commission proposes to allow an incumbent EBS licensee, in addition to 
leasing a portion of its license, to assign or transfer control of its 
entire license to entities that do not meet the eligibility criteria 
contained in Sec.  27.1201 of the Commission's rules. If the incumbent 
EBS licensee were to choose to assign or transfer its license, the new 
licensee would not be required to comply with the educational use 
requirements in Sec.  27.1203 of the Commission's rules. The Commission 
seeks comment on whether licensees whose license were granted via 
waiver, should be given additional flexibility to lease their spectrum 
or to transfer or assign their licenses freely. Given this flexibility 
to transfer or assign an entire EBS license to non-eligible entities, 
free of educational use requirements, the Commission also proposes to 
eliminate the educational use requirements in Sec.  27.1203 for all EBS 
licensees. The Commission also proposes to eliminate restrictions on 
EBS lease terms on a going forward basis and ask whether additional 
revisions are necessary to fully rationalize our rules for the 
transferability, leasing and use of EBS spectrum.
    79. Opportunities to Acquire New 2.5 GHz Licenses. The Commission 
proposes to auction off licenses for unassigned portions of the 2.5 GHZ 
band and seek comment on whether it should first open up to three new 
local priority filing windows to give existing licensees, Tribal 
Nations and educational entities an opportunity to access 2.5 GHz 
spectrum to serve their local communities. The Commission also proposes 
build-out requirements for these new licenses to ensure that all 
Americans have the opportunity to benefit from the 2.5 GHz band.
    80. New Local Priority Filing Window--Local Presence. The 
Commission proposes to require an applicant to demonstrate as part of 
the application process that it has a local presence, and that an EBS-
eligible entity should be considered to have a ``local presence'' when 
it is physically located within the license area where service is 
proposed. The Commission seeks comment on what documentation applicants 
must provide to demonstrate that they have a local presence.
    81. Local Priority Filing Window 1: Existing Licensees. The 
Commission seeks comment on opening a window that would permit existing 
2.5 GHz licensees to expand their service to the county border if they 
were able to demonstrate that they had a local presence in that county, 
and if they covered at least 25 percent of census tracts in that 
county. Such a window would allow existing licensees to quickly put 
white space to use, but it would also preclude new entrants.
    82. Local Priority Filing Window 2: Tribal Nations. The Commission 
seeks comment on opening a new filing priority filing window for Tribal 
Nations. The Commission proposes to limit participation to federally-
recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages that also 
have a local presence. The Commission also

[[Page 26407]]

proposes not to limit the number of channels that a Tribal Nations 
could apply for as EBS-eligible entities for the purposes of 
participating in the Native National entity filing window. The 
Commission asks commenters to propose other ways by which it could 
encourage the use of EBS spectrum on Tribal Lands and in Native 
communities.
    83. Local Priority Filing Window 3: New Educational Entities. The 
Commission seeks comment on opening a new local priority filing window 
for educational entities that do not hold any 2.5 GHz spectrum. The 
Commission would propose to limit participation in such a window to 
accredited institutions as well as governmental organizations engaged 
in the formal education of enrolled students who are not 2.5 GHz 
licensees as of the adoption of this NPRM and only in areas in which 
they have a local presence. The Commission seeks comment on whether to 
assign new EBS licenses on a county-wide or census tract basis.
    84. Local Priority Filing Process. The Commission seeks comment on 
the appropriate time frame for any of the new local priority filing 
windows, how long the windows should be open, and how much notice to 
give. The Commission asks entities that are interested in participating 
in the application window and obtaining 2.5 GHz licenses to indicate 
their interests and the difficulties that they may face to help us 
evaluate any possible technical and process issues that may arise in 
implementing one or more new local priority filing windows for 
applicants and processing such applications.
    85. Resolving Mutually Exclusive Applications. While the Commission 
does not anticipate many mutually exclusive applications based on the 
local priority filing windows, it notes that the Communications Act 
requires that assign initial licenses subject to mutually exclusive 
applications through competitive bidding. The Commission proposes to 
limit such competitive bidding to the mutually exclusive applications 
filed during a particular window, and ask for comment on that. The 
Commission asks for comment on whether the Commission should permit a 
settlement window to resolve such mutual exclusivity. The Commission 
also proposes to employ the part 1 rules governing competitive bidding 
design, unjust enrichment, application and payment procedures, 
reporting requirements, and the prohibition on certain communications 
between auction applicants, and seeks comment on this proposal.
    86. Holding Periods for Licenses Acquired Through a Local Priority 
Filing Window. The Commission seeks comment on whether to impose a 
special holding period, and for how long, on any license acquired 
through a local priority filing window in order to ensure that licenses 
are not immediately flipped to a nonqualifying entity. The Commission 
asks whether a three, five, or seven-year holding period would be most 
appropriate for these circumstances. The Commission also asks whether 
licensees should be required to meet certain buildout requirements 
before allowing a transfer.
    87. Licensing White Spaces. The Commission proposes that after any 
new licenses have been assigned through one or more local priority 
filing windows, any remaining 2.5 GHz spectrum would be made available 
for commercial use via competitive bidding using our general part 1 
competitive bidding rules. The Commission seeks comment on this 
proposal and on the appropriate size of such licenses and the size of 
channel blocks. The Commission also proposes to apply designated entity 
preferences in this auction, and to eliminate the EBS eligibility 
criteria contained in Sec.  27.1201 of the rules with respect to 
unassigned spectrum and ask for comment on these proposals.
    88. Requirements for New 2.5 GHz Licenses. The Commission proposes 
more robust construction requirements for new 2.5 GHz licenses granted 
based on the proposed local priority filing window in the NPRM or a 
system of competitive bidding. For mobile and fixed point-to-multipoint 
services, the Commission proposes an interim benchmark of 50 percent 
population coverage and a final benchmark of 80 percent population 
coverage. For fixed point-to-point services, the Commission proposes an 
interim benchmark of 20 point-to-point links per million persons (one 
link per 50,000 persons) in a license area, and 40 point-to-point links 
per million persons (one link per 25,000 persons) in a licensed area. 
For educational broadcast services that provide least 20 hours of 
educational use per channel per week, the Commission seeks comment on 
an interim benchmark of 50 percent population coverage and a final 
benchmark of 80 percent population coverage. The Commission also 
proposes to bring any new 2.5 GHz licenses granted through a local 
priority filing window or a system of competitive bidding into the 
unified regulatory renewal framework for WRS. The Commission seeks 
comment on bringing existing EBS licensees into the WRS framework for 
license renewal once their licenses have been rationalized.
    89. Cleaning Up the 2.5 GHz Rules. The Commission proposes to 
eliminate the BRS/EBS transition rules since the process for 
transitioning BRS and EBS licensees to the new band plan was completed 
in 2011 and the rules no longer appear necessary. The Commission also 
proposes to make various non-substantive, clarifying amendments to 
Sec.  27.1206 to make the rules easier to understand without changing 
the substantive requirements for BRS. The proposed changes are 
contained in the Proposed Rules of the NRPM, and the Commission seeks 
comment on these proposed changes.

E. E. Steps Taken To Minimize Significant Economic Impact on Small 
Entities, and Significant Alternatives Considered

    90. The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant, 
specifically small business, alternatives that it has considered in 
reaching its proposed approach, which may include the following four 
alternatives (among others): ``(1) the establishment of differing 
compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into 
account the resources available to small entities; (2) the 
clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and 
reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) the 
use or performance rather than design standards; and (4) an exemption 
from coverage of the rules, or any part thereof, for such small 
entities.''
    91. The Commission does not believe that its proposed changes will 
have a significant economic impact on small entities however, to get a 
better understanding costs and benefits associated with proposals and 
any alternatives raised in this proceeding as mentioned above in the 
previous section, the Commission has requested that commenters discuss 
the costs and benefits supported by quantitative and qualitative data 
of any approach advocated. The proposed changes expanding the use of 
the 2.5 GHz band will benefit small entities as well as entities of 
other sizes by reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on licensees, 
promoting greater spectrum efficiency, and facilitating the full use of 
EBS spectrum to provide advanced mobile broadband services, 
particularly in rural areas where this spectrum sits idle today. 
Moreover, the proposed reforms will permit more flexible use of this 
spectrum by small and other sized entities that currently hold EBS 
licenses and will provide new opportunities for EBS eligible entities, 
Tribal Nations, and

[[Page 26408]]

commercial entities to obtain unused 2.5 GHz spectrum to facilitate 
improved access to next generation wireless broadband, including 5G, 
for both educational and commercial uses.
    92. More specifically, the Commission's proposed rationalization 
process for incumbent EBS licensees that would occur automatically 
allowing incumbent licensees to avoid a requirement to file 
applications with the Commission or to otherwise notify the Commission 
to effectuate this change would minimize some costs and/or 
administrative burdens on small entities associated with the rule, if 
adopted. Small entities should also benefit from removal of the filing 
freeze for new EBS licenses and the requirement that EBS eligible 
entities applying for a new license must have a local presence in the 
areas in which they wish to provide service, which will provide them 
greater opportunity to obtain EBS spectrum to meet the needs of their 
communities. In addition, small entities should benefit from the 
increased flexibility of our proposal to allow EBS licensees with the 
flexibility to assign or transfer control of their licenses to entities 
that are not EBS-eligible. The Commission believes that, at this point 
in time, licensees are in the best position to determine how to use 
their licenses, or, alternatively, whether to transfer their licenses 
to a third party in the secondary market.
    93. For existing EBS licenses the Commission's action declining to 
issue proposals creating new performance or renewal requirements will 
spare small entities and other existing EBS licensees the costs of new 
compliance requirements in these areas. With respect to performance 
requirements adopted for all new EBS licenses, the Commission believes 
such requirements are necessary to ensure that spectrum is being put 
into use and has proposed a variety of metrics to provide small 
entities as well as other licensees with a variety of means by which 
they may demonstrate compliance. The Commission anticipates that 
updating the performance requirements in this manner will encourage 
rapid deployment of next generation wireless services, including 5G, 
which will benefit small entities and the industry as a whole.

F. F. Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the 
Proposed Rules

    94. None.

V. Ordering Clauses

    95. It is ordered, pursuant to the authority found in Sections 1, 
2, 3, 4(i), 7, 201, 301, 302, 303, 304, 307, 308, 309, and 310 of the 
Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. 151, 152, 153, 154(i), 157, 201, 
301, 302, 303, 304, 307, 308, 309, 310, and Section 706 of the 
Telecommunications Act of 1996, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 1302, and Section 
1.411 of the Commission's Rules, 47 CFR 1.411, that this Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking is hereby adopted.
    96. It is further ordered that notice is hereby given of the 
proposed regulatory changes described in this Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking, and that comment is sought on these proposals.
    97. It is further ordered that the Commission's Consumer and 
Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, shall send a 
copy of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including the Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of 
the Small Business Administration.

List of Subjects in 47 CFR Parts 1 and 27

    Communications common carriers, Communications equipment, Reporting 
and recordkeeping requirements.

Federal Communications Commission.
Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Office of the Secretary.

Proposed Rules

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal 
Communications Commission proposes to amend 47 CFR parts 1 and 27 as 
follows:

PART 1--PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE

0
1. The authority citation for part 1 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i), 155, 157, 160, 201, 225, 227, 
303, 309, 332, 1403, 1404, 1451, 1452, and 1455, unless otherwise 
noted.

0
2. Amend Sec.  1.949 by revising paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  1.949  Application for renewal of authorization.

* * * * *
    (c) Implementation. Covered Site-based Licenses, except Common 
Carrier Fixed Point-to-Point Microwave Service (part 101, subpart I of 
this chapter), and Covered Geographic Licenses in the 600 MHz Service 
(part 27, subpart N); 700 MHz Commercial Services (part 27, subpart F); 
Advanced Wireless Services (part 27, subpart L) (AWS-3 (1695-1710 MHz, 
1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz) and AWS-4 (2000-2020 MHz and 2180-
2200 MHz) only); and H Block Service (part 27, subpart K) must comply 
with paragraphs (d) through (h) of this section. Broadband Radio 
Service and Educational Broadband Service licenses (part 27, subpart M) 
initially issued after [effective date of final rule] must comply with 
paragraphs (d) through (h) of this section. All other Covered 
Geographic Licenses must comply with paragraphs (d) through (h) of this 
section beginning on January 1, 2023. Common Carrier Fixed Point-to-
Point Microwave Service (part 101, subpart I) must comply with 
paragraphs (d) through (h) of this section beginning on October 1, 
2018.
* * * * *

PART 27--MISCELLANEOUS WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES

0
3. The authority citation for part 27 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  47 U.S.C. 154, 301, 302a, 303, 307, 309, 332, 336, 
337, 1403, 1404, 1451, and 1452, unless otherwise noted.

0
4. Amend Sec.  27.14 by revising paragraph (o) to read as follows:


Sec.  27.14  Construction Requirements.

* * * * *
    (o)(1) All BRS and EBS licensees issued after [effective date of 
final rule], must demonstrate compliance with the performance 
requirements described in this paragraph. All equipment used to 
demonstrate compliance must be in use and actually providing service, 
either for internal use or to unaffiliated customers, as of the interim 
deadline or the end of the license term, whichever is applicable.
    (2) Licensees relying on mobile service must demonstrate reliable 
signal coverage of 50% of the population of the geographic service area 
by the interim deadline, and 80% of the population of the geographic 
service area by the end of the license term.
    (3) Licensees relying on fixed service must demonstrate operation 
of one link for each 50,000 persons in the geographic service area by 
the interim deadline, and one link for each 25,000 persons in the 
geographic service area by the end of the license term.
* * * * *


Sec.  27.1201  [Removed and Reserved]

0
5. Remove and reserve Sec.  27.1201.
0
6. Revise Sec.  27.1206 to read as follows:


Sec.  27.1206  Geographic Service Area.

    (a) BRS:
    (1) For BRS incumbent licenses granted before September 15, 1995, 
the GSA for a channel is the GSA as created on January 10, 2005.
    (2) For BRS BTA authorization holders, the GSA for a channel is the

[[Page 26409]]

BTA, subject to the exclusion of overlapping, co-channel incumbent GSAs 
created on January 10, 2005.
    (3) If an incumbent BRS license is cancelled or is forfeited, the 
GSA area of the incumbent station shall dissolve and the right to 
operate in that area automatically reverts to the GSA licensee that 
held the corresponding BTA.
    (b) For EBS:
    (1) Incumbent EBS licensees. (i) The GSA of EBS licenses on the E 
and F channel groups is defined in Sec.  27.1216. EBS licensees on the 
E and F channel groups are prohibited from expanding their GSAs.
    (ii) For EBS licenses not in the E and F channel groups in effect 
as of [effective date of final rule], the GSA for a channel consists of 
all census tracts which are covered by or intersect its GSA existing as 
of [effective date of final rule].
    (2) New initial EBS licenses. The GSA for a channel for new initial 
licenses issued after [effective date of final rule], is the county 
[census tract] for which the license is issued, subject to the 
exclusion of overlapping, co-channel incumbent GSAs.
0
7. Revise Sec.  27.1214 to read as follows:


Sec.  27.1214  EBS spectrum leasing arrangements and grandfathered 
leases.

    (a) All leases of current EBS spectrum entered into prior to 
January 10, 2005 and in compliance with leasing rules formerly 
contained in part 74 of this chapter may continue in force and effect, 
notwithstanding any inconsistency between such leases and the rules 
applicable to spectrum leasing arrangements set forth in this chapter. 
Such leases entered into pursuant to the former part 74 rules of this 
chapter may be renewed and assigned in accordance with the terms of 
such lease. All spectrum leasing arrangements leases entered into after 
January 10, 2005, pursuant to the rules set forth in part 1 and part 27 
of this chapter, must comply with the rules in those parts.
    (b) For leasing arrangements entered into between July 19, 2006 and 
[effective date of final rule], the maximum permissible term of an EBS 
spectrum leasing arrangement (including the initial term and all 
renewal terms that commence automatically or at the sole option of the 
lessee) shall be 30 years. Any spectrum leasing arrangement in excess 
of 15 years that is entered into on or after July 19, 2006 and before 
[effective date of final rule] must include terms which provide the EBS 
licensee on the 15th year and every 5 years thereafter, with an 
opportunity to review its educational use requirements in light of 
changes in educational needs, technology, and other relevant factors 
and to obtain access to such additional services, capacity, support, 
and/or equipment as the parties shall agree upon in the spectrum 
leasing arrangement to advance the EBS licensee's educational mission.
0
8. Revise Sec.  27.1217 to read as follows:


Sec.  27.1217  Competitive bidding procedures for the Broadband Radio 
Service and the Educational Broadband Service.

    Mutually exclusive initial applications for BRS and EBS licenses 
are subject to competitive bidding. The designated entity provisions in 
Sec.  27.1218 shall not apply to auctions held after [effective date of 
final rule]. The general competitive bidding procedures set forth in 
part 1, subpart Q of this chapter will apply unless otherwise provided 
in this subpart.


Sec.  Sec.  27.1230 through 27.1239  [Removed]

0
9. Remove Sec. Sec.  27.1230 through 27.1239.

[FR Doc. 2018-12183 Filed 6-6-18; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P