Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. VI Issue 38

Date: Sep 28, 2009

FCC Seeks Comments on Broadband Spectrum Need

On September 23, 2009, the Commission issued a Public Notice seeking comments on the sufficiency of current spectrum allocations, specifically prime spectrum bands below 3.7 GHz, for purposes of the FCC's development of the National Broadband Plan. The public notice cites an assortment of spectrum proposals, including our client the American Petroleum Institute's request that critical infrastructure industries receive access to the 700 MHz band and a recent UTC/EEI proposal to re-allocate 30 MHz of spectrum at 1800-1830 MHz for utility and other critical infrastructure industry use to support smart grid and other applications (see, Vol. VI, Issue 23). The Public Notice seeks responses to several questions, including: (1) the ability of current spectrum to meet future needs; (2) recommendations for spectrum bands to support mobile wireless and fixed wireless broadband; (3) they key public interest issues for allocating spectrum, and (4) the ability of current spectrum to support both the fixed and mobile wireless backhaul market. Recognizing the urgent need to develop the National Broadband Plan, Comments must be filed by October 13, 2009, and Reply Comments by November 13, 2009.

Active Debate Surrounding 700 MHz D Block

Last month, the Commission issued a Public Notice seeking comment on 13 petitions for waiver filed by various public safety entities seeking to deploy broadband systems on a local or regional basis in the 10 MHz of public safety broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band currently licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust ("PSST"). The Commission staff has indicated that several other public safety entities have expressed varying levels of interest in this spectrum. Comments are due October 16 and Reply Comments by November 16. Meanwhile, debate about how best to allocate the 10 MHz of the 700 MHz D Block remains active. At a Congressional hearing last week, House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said that the public-private partnership remains a viable solution for creating a nationwide, interoperable public safety network. PSST seeks to have the Commission allocate the 10 MHz of the D-Block directly to the public safety community, while NENA has asked the Commission to combine the 10 MHz allocated for public safety with the adjacent 10 MHz D Block to create a 20 MHz block for auction to a commercial entity. The NENA proposal is not being supported by other members of the Public Safety community.

Smart Grid Comments Due, Interoperability Framework Released

As part of the development of the National Broadband Plan, the Commission issued a Public Notice earlier this month seeking comments on how broadband coupled with advanced infrastructure and services could help utilities implement Smart Grid technology. The Public Notice seeks comments on the suitability of current communications networks and technologies; the availability of existing communications networks; how wireless spectrum is and may be used for Smart Grid applications; the Smart Grid's ability to provide real-time energy consumption and pricing data; and, the broadband requirements for Smart Meters and Home Area Networks. Comments must be filed with the Commission by October 2, 2009. Other federal agencies also are focused on Smart Grid deployment, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology ("NIST"), which released a Draft Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability.

FCC Open Meeting September 29, 2009

The FCC will hold its next Open Meeting this Tuesday, September 29. The tentative agenda focuses exclusively on the Commission's processes for developing the National Broadband Plan.