FCC Seeks Comment on Ways to Grant Access to Spectrum, Absent Auction Authority

On March 7, 2024, the FCC released a Public Notice1. seeking comment on how it should fulfill its responsibility to make spectrum resources available for use in the public interested, in light of the fact that the Commission’s auction authority has lapsed. Specifically, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB”) asks how the Commission could use its current statutory authority to provide the public with access to its inventory of currently unassigned spectrum in bands previously listed for auction (“Inventory Spectrum”), and seeks comment on three specific approaches.

The first option involves dynamic spectrum sharing, in which one or more dynamic frequency coordinators could facilitate access to Inventory Spectrum for multiple users within particular spectrum bands and geographic areas. The second option is for non-exclusive site-based licensing, where stakeholders could seek individual, non-exclusive authorizations and promote co-existence through either a spectrum coordinator or license-to license coordination of technical parameters. The third option entails leasing Inventory Spectrum licenses to the public, even if they have not yet been licensed.

For all of the above approaches, the WTB seeks comment on the following:

What are the potential benefits and drawbacks for each of the proposals, and how could the FCC promote co-existence among spectrum users?
To the extent that any of the proposals result in a change in the use of spectrum or in the service or technical rules for the spectrum, how could these mechanisms address potential co-channel and adjacent band interference issues?
How might the Commission adjust any of the proposals to better incentivize network investment and robust use of the Inventory Spectrum in the public interest?
Are any of these proposals more appropriate for use in particular Inventory Spectrum bands?
For what term should access allowed under these proposals be valid, and should there be a defined expiration?
How might the Commission address issues related to mutually exclusive applications to facilitate access to Inventory Spectrum?
What, if any, impact would each proposal have on the Commission’s Mobile Spectrum Holding policies?

The Commission also noted that the public already has access to Inventory Spectrum under grants of Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) under limited circumstances and for limited purposes, and seeks comment as to whether there are any changes that might serve the public interest during this period of lapsed auction authority. Further, the Commission invites commenters to consider other assignment options, not already proposed, for providing access to Inventory Spectrum.

Comments are due on or before April 8, 2024, and Reply Comments are due on or before April 22, 2024. If you would like to file comments or would like to discuss this issue further, please contact Dee Herman at [email protected] or Shannon Forchheimer at [email protected].
[1] Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Seeks Comment on Was to Facilitate Access to Currently Unassigned Auction Inventory Spectrum for Wireless Radio Services in Light of the Ongoing Lapse of Auction Authority, WT Docket No. 24-72, Public Notice, DA 24-215 (rel. March 7, 2024).