Rosenworcel Slams FCC Focus on High Band

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel used her statement in support of an item potentially freeing up some midband spectrum in the 3.1-3.55 for 5G--it passed unanimously--to hammer the FCC for focusing on millimeter-wave auctions, which she called the wrong lane to 5G, rather than midband spectrum.

She has long argued that the commission's multiple high-band spectrum auctions was a mistake that the FCC would pay for.

At the FCC's open meeting Thursday (Dec. 12), she laid out her case.

After praising the item as "the kind of proactive, forward-looking effort we need to start freeing up valuable midband spectrum," she laid into the commission.

She pointed out that the FCC has yet to auction a hertz worth of midband while continuing to focus on high-band spectrum that is harder to use to deploy rural service given its propagation issues and the need for denitrification.

She cited the C-Band proceeding, saying that the FCC did not include Congress in its decision on how to free up that spectrum and, as a result, the FCC is paying for that in lost time and "fresh ambiguities" about its legal authority.

She said the focus on high-band was divorced from the realities on the ground or in the rest of the world, where midband could become the standard and the FCC and U.S. left on the outside looking in. She said that had consequences for "our wireless leadership, the digital divide and national security."

Rosenworcel cited the FCC's current millimeter-wave auction and the fact that it came before auctioning midband spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, which will be in June of next year.

FCC chair Ajit Pai countered that the FCC had a comprehensive strategy to advancing 5G and having "started from scratch" in 2017--when he took over from a Democratic administration--the commission was aggressively trying to free up midband--including that 3.5 June auction--and next year's C-Band auction of 280 MHz of midband, while also "hard at work" auctioning high band.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.