FCC to Reevaluate Partitioning, Disaggregation, and Spectrum Leasing Rules

On March 15, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (19-22) announcing that it will reevaluate its current “partitioning, disaggregation, and spectrum leasing rules might further the agency’s goals of closing the digital divide and increasing spectrum access for small carriers and in rural areas.”

Currently, the FCC allows partitioning and disaggregation of licenses for Wireless Radio Services for providers that file FCC Form 603. The FCC defines “geographic partitioning” as the “the assignment of a geographic portion of a geographic area licensee’s license area” and “spectrum disaggregation” as the “assignment of portions of blocks of a geographic area licensee’s spectrum.” Rules for partitioning and disaggregation favor widening access to spectrum by offering flexibility toward licensees regarding the geographic areas served and the amount of spectrum used. The FCC now seeks to explore the current rules and whether these rules have been successful in closing the digital divide. The FCC issued this Notice per a statutory requirement that the FCC initiate a rulemaking process within a year of the passage of the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act (“MOBILE NOW Act”).

In its reevaluation, the FCC will consider changing existing programs or creating a new program for “partitioning, disaggregation, and spectrum leasing.” The FCC will also consider (1) whether the MOBILE NOW Act, would be more effective with reduced performance requirements for licensees, (2) how small carriers can more efficiently build out, (3) how small carriers and unaffiliated carriers serving rural areas can lease or purchase more spectrum from licensees, and (4) the “administrative feasibility of incentives that further the goals of the MOBILE NOW Act.

If you have any questions regarding the information contained in this Advisory, please contact the attorney assigned to your account or Jonathan Marashlian at jsm@commlawgroup.com / 703-714-1313.

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