The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recently released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to overhaul the current auction and licensing rules for the Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), has, understandably, caused quite a bit of consternation among rural service providers and residents, wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and equipment vendors who made investments in reliance on the existing CBRS rules.
The proposed rules, which will skew the Priority Access License (“PAL”) auction procedures and increase the licensed service areas and terms, will substantially favor the “Big Four” wireless carriers. Smaller carriers will be priced out of the auctions, and rural areas will likely suffer from continued lack of wireless broadband coverage.
The NPRM will soon be published in the Federal Register, which will kick off the public comment period. The record indicates that because the FCC appears determined to implement many, if not all of the proposed rules, the comment period may be “fast tracked” in order to rapidly complete the proceeding and get the new rules codified.
The good news is that if the current rules are changed in ways that harm those who relied on them, and there is a viable opportunity for an appeal of the new rules in federal court and a potential stay of those rules.
In addition to reliance, there are a number of other legal arguments for staying the new rules, including their negative impact on rural communities and fostering a concentration of licenses among the largest carriers. But, in order to have standing to appeal, interested parties MUST file comments or otherwise participate in the current rulemaking.
It is critical that any entity that will be harmed by the new rules preserve its right to appeal. Each business, municipality, association, or individual has its own unique issues that should be addressed on appeal. It is not a good idea to rely on others to make their arguments which may not serve your interests.
It is crucial that the current CBRS rules be saved. CBRS stakeholders are strongly encouraged to form a coalition to submit comments in this proceeding. Multi-party comments save costs and efficiently address the concerns of all the parties.