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CompTIA Weighs in on Expanding Unlicensed Spectrum

In early 2012, Congress enacted the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which included a provision that authorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct incentive auctions to maximize the utility and efficiency of the nation’s radio spectrum frequency bands.

Consequently, on October 2, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comments on several aspects of an FCC proposed “reverse auction” process aimed at incentivizing television broadcasters to relinquish radio television spectrum with the intent of repurposing it through an auction to wireless broadband providers. The FCC stated:

“The 2010 National Broadband Plan introduced the idea of incentive auctions as a tool to help meet the nation’s spectrum needs. Incentive auctions are a voluntary, market-based means of repurposing spectrum by encouraging licensees to voluntarily relinquish spectrum usage rights in exchange for a share of the proceeds from an auction of new licenses to use the repurposed spectrum. The incentive auction idea is the latest in a series of world-leading spectrum policies pioneered in the U.S., including unlicensed spectrum uses such as WiFi, Bluetooth, near field communication and other innovations, and the original FCC spectrum auctions in the 1990s.”

On Friday, January 25, CompTIA filed comments in response to the NPRM for the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction Proceeding. Although the NPRM covered numerous technical, procedural and broadcasting policy issues, CompTIA focused exclusively on the issue of expanding unlicensed spectrum.

Under the television broadcasting incentive auction proceeding, the FCC indicated their intent to explore TV white space “guard bands,” (the white space static between television channels) to provide low-power unlicensed spectrum on a nationwide and contiguous basis.

CompTIA argued that as the number of wireless devices grows, the nation will suffer from broadband scarcity unless the FCC takes immediate steps to address the need for more unlicensed spectrum. Expanding the pool of unlicensed spectrum will have numerous benefits to the economy. It will help with job creation and job growth through the development of new and innovative IT products and services designed to operate on low-power guard band frequencies. It will help rural, remote and underserved urban areas that currently do not have access to affordable and/or reliable broadband access. A community with a robust source of wireless broadband services will be able to leapfrog into the modern age as our society becomes increasingly mobile.

In short, the FCC’s proposal to create a national and contiguous band of unlicensed wireless spectrum will unleash a new wave of innovation much like the innovation that has already exploded in the licensed wireless spectrum marketplace.