Commissioner Carr's Good Ideas for Broadband | Citizens Against Government Waste

Commissioner Carr's Good Ideas for Broadband

The WasteWatcher

A change in administrations usually means significant changes in policy across the federal government.  But, that should not apply to the primary work and focus of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), especially in its mission to move ahead with the deployment of 5G networks across the county. 

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been a leader on 5G, including climbing towers so he can see how the work is being done firsthand.  During an April 6, 2021 Facebook Live event with Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) President Tom Schatz, he emphasized the importance of continuing to move forward with spectrum auctions to maintain the U.S.’s leadership in next generation communications technology.  Commissioner Carr noted that in 2015 and 2016, the U.S. was falling behind its international competitors with only 708 5G cell sites being deployed.  Fast forward to 2019, after many of the regulatory burdens on network deployment were lifted and the FCC took an aggressive stance on spectrum policy, the number of new cell sites had increased to more than 46,000.

This increase in accessibility could not have been achieved without the FCC’s action to modernize infrastructure deployment rules using a plan that looked at both spectrum policy and removing barriers to building new networks.  To continue that momentum, Commissioner Carr proposed in an April 13, 2021 Twitter post an aggressive schedule to keep spectrum policy moving forward and continue to enable future 5G and eventually 6G network buildouts. 

Understanding that spectrum policy requires a mix of licensed spectrum and unlicensed spectrum into the future, his proposal includes the following spectrum activities for 2021:

  • Auction 100 MHz in the 3.45 GHz band.
  • Auction the 100+ MHz in the 2.5 GHz band.
  • Authorize very low power devices in 6 GHz at 14 dBm.
  • Authorize Client to Client device communications in 6 GHz.
  • Seek comments on updating rules in 5470-5725 MHz for Wi-Fi.

For 2022, he recommends the following spectrum activities:

  • Commence 5G Fund auction in early 2022.
  • Auction 50 MHz in 1300-1350 MHz band.
  • Auction additional millimeter wave spectrum.
  • Auction spectrum in lower 3 GHz band.
  • Auction 4.8 GHz band spectrum
  • Reallocate spectrum in the 7.125-8.4 GHz band for commercial 5G operations.
  • Free up additional spectrum above 95 GHz, including for 6G.

On March 15, 2021, Commissioner Carr spoke to the American Enterprise Institute about the efforts by the FCC to remove barriers to building new networks stating, “When Chairman Pai tapped me to lead the FCC’s infrastructure reforms, we moved quickly to modernize the agency’s approach and cut billions of dollars’ worth of red tape.  We updated the environmental and historic preservation rules that needlessly drove up the cost and slowed down the timeline for adding small cells.  We put in place guardrails to address outlier fees and delays imposed at the state and local level.  We streamlined the process for swapping out utility poles to add wireless equipment.  We created an expedited approval process for tower builds during COVID-19.  We accelerated next-gen networks through a 5G Upgrade Order that clarified Section 6409.  And we paved the way for more resilient and capable cell sites by streamlining the local approval process for modifying existing sites.”

Commissioner Carr and the FCC have done an excellent job of enabling the fast expansion of 5G networks.  He noted during the CAGW Facebook Live and elsewhere that there is $40 billion available for broadband that has not been spent.  Instead of dumping an additional $100 billion in funding for government owned broadband networks that promotes a single technology, as proposed in President Biden’s infrastructure proposal, perhaps the administration should reflect back on the massive advances in infrastructure deployment made through auctioning spectrum to the private sector and getting the regulatory morass out of the way of next generation technology and telecommunications innovation. 

Rather than moving broadband back into the dark ages, as the Biden administration has proposed, the administration should reconsider and continue following the path of moving innovation forward in a technology and vendor neutral approach, which has been the policy adopted by Commissioner Carr and all of his colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, at the FCC.