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FCC Ponders Spectrum-Lease Plan

The Federal Communications Commissiion is considering letting third-party “intermediaries” set up communications networks and applications that make use of spectrum leased from permanent licensees.

The new scenario would not now include broadcasters, but would apply to most wireless licensees including cell phone and PCS, as well as local public safety departments.

If approved, the step would be a refinement of spectrum-leasing rules the FCC approved in May 2003 to create a secondary market for spectrum. Comments on the idea are due Jan. 18.

The FCC believes that communications frequencies can be put to more efficient use if licensees lease them out at times when they aren’t used at full capacity.

Secondary-spectrum markets are predicted to be a way to ease the shortage of telecommunications frequencies by allowing more efficient and flexible use.

Leasing arrangements can be established without commission approval as long as the licensee maintains responsibility for its tenants' actions.

The FCC in 2003 dropped a proposal that would have let broadcasters lease their spectrum because some FCC commissioners objected to the idea of stations profiting from renting out channels they got for free.

Nevertheless, the idea of including broadcasters some time in the future remains on the drawing board of spectrum planners at the FCC and in other telecommunications industries.