By Katie McAuliffe and Noah Vehafric
His plan sets out specific swaths of spectrum to investigate possible better uses and a fresh look at the role infrastructure plays in 5G roll out. All items the FCC could tackle within the year.
Seeing the Full Spectrum
Four years ago, expert predictions did not “paint a rosy picture” for American 5G future. The U.S. was falling behind in infrastructure deployment and spectrum allocation.
But during the past four years, the FCC trusted America’s free enterprise system over calls to nationalize 5G, and went to work to free up more spectrum and modernize infrastructure rules. In total, the FCC freed up over 6GHz of spectrum for 5G and saw ten times the number of cell sites deployed than in previous years.
The Commissioner called this “one of America’s greatest successes of the past four years,” but there is always more work to be done. Commissioner Carr outlined numerous swaths of spectrum he would like the FCC to investigate in 2021 and 2022 for possible new uses that could result in and additional five gigahertz of spectrum opened for private sector uses.
The Commission must also work with Congress on reauthorization of auction authority, which expires in 2022.
Commissioner Carr also laid out his plan for what the FCC should work on to continue the rollout of infrastructure.
Chiefly, the FCC needs to ensure that it completes its broadband maps by the fall. These maps are important to closing the digital divide and without them, the FCC cannot start RDOF Phase II or the 5G Fund for Rural America.
Building out 5G requires double the number of telecom workers. The Commissioner has pushed the FCC to partner with trade schools and community colleges to launch new programs across the country that train people on pulling & splicing fiber and how to become telecom field techs & tower climbers.
Many of these training programs are only eight to twelve weeks and there after and individual is set for a high paying job and minimal debt.
Other infrastructure reforms on the agenda are reforming cost-sharing rules on pole attachments and making it easier to build on federal land.
While there is much more spectrum that is on horizon, Commissioner Carr made an important point that freeing up spectrum requires strong leadership by the FCC and the willingness to take the heat from other agencies and special interests who want to hold onto their spectrum. This is same point that former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made in a January address to the Information Technology Industry Council and that strategy has served us well in the pursuit of 5G deployment. Newly appointed agency and department officials (looking at you DoT) should not reverse these decisions that were well fought and debated already.
With 5G being a household term, the FCC needs to continue to show strong resolve to ensure America stays 5G Forward.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore