Agency also seeks to update its Children’s Television rules

WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission today by a 4-0 vote adopted an order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to open C-band downlink spectrum for flexible use, including deployment of 5G services in the mid-band.

The action, taken during the FCC’s monthly Open Meeting, makes available 500 MHz between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz for flexible use to encourage development of advanced wireless services, including 5G.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr noted the rapidly growing demand of consumers for mobile data, noting that today’s monthly total exceeds 1 exabyte, and echoed the sentiments of his three fellow commissioners about the urgency of finding more spectrum to meet that demand.

INFORMATION GATHERING

The order requires fixed satellite service earth station operators in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band to certify their existing registration and license information. It also requires collection of information from space station licensees on their use of the band. The FCC will use the information to find the most efficient way to drive use of the band for 5G, IoT and other service, while protecting incumbents.

The NPRM proposes adding a mobile allocation to all 500 MHz identified for C-band flexible use and asks for comments on different proposals, including market-based, auction and other mechanisms, for bringing flexible use to the band.

It also seeks comment on allowing more intensive point-to-multipoint fixed use in a portion of the band on a shared basis as well as on ways to protect incumbents from harmful interference.

[Read: Rep. Cole: Noncoms Must Be Protected In C Band Sharing]

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the agency must do even more to make spectrum available, including freeing the 3.5GHz band that for years has been “ready to go” but remains “mired in the agency’s bureaucracy.” Rosenworcel called for publication of a spectrum calendar that puts “every band on a schedule for all to see,” and removes the opaqueness regarding when certain bands will become available for more intensive use.

In response, the NAB reminded the commission of the value of C-band services for broadcasting.

“Nearly every American depends on C-band satellite spectrum to receive radio and television programming,” the association said. “The FCC should tread lightly when looking at repurposing even more spectrum for the commercial wireless industry. Slogans and promises are what led the FCC to repurpose spectrum for Dish, and that spectrum still sits fallow. NAB looks forward to working with the Commission to take a close look at widespread existing uses of C-band spectrum, and determining the best path forward.”

TWEAKING EAS

The agency also took steps to enhance the nation’s emergency alerting systems during the meeting. It adopted a Report and Order laying out procedures for authorized state and local officials to conduct “live code” tests of the Emergency Alert System using the codes and processes used during an actual emergency.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly opposed the use of actual EAS tones for these tests. “Americans should not fear they are in imminent danger,” he said. While voting to approve the item, O’Rielly dissented to this portion of the R&O.

[Read: Missouri The Next State To Conduct A Solo EAS/WEA Test]

However, the other commissioners generally expressed that using the actual codes will increase the proficiency of local alerting officials and educate the public about how to respond to an actual alert. The R&O requires steps to coordinate and plan the tests as well as disclaimers to inform the public that such warnings are only test.

The item also authorizes Public Service Announcements using the two-tone attention signal and the simulated header code of three audible tones that come before the attention signal as long as an appropriate disclaimer is included in the PSA.

The R&O gives EAS participants 24 hours to report any false emergency alert message to the FCC operations center.

KIDVID FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

The agency also adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at modernizing so-called Kid Vid rules set up in 1996 as directed by the Children’s Television Act.

The genesis of the NPRM is the dramatic transformation in the way children are accessing content. Rather than relying almost exclusively on TV as in 1996, today’s kids can find content on dedicated children’s channels carried by MVPDs, on multicast broadcast channels, and over the top, said O’Rielly, who is spearheading the changes.

NAB applauded the move.

“NAB thanks the FCC for its proposal to update children’s television programming rules and Commissioner O’Rielly for his leadership on this issue,” the association said in a statement. :Broadcasters remain committed to delivering educational programming to kids. But given the seismic changes in how children consume media, it makes perfect sense for the Commission to take a fresh look at these regulations. We will work with the FCC and other stakeholders to craft common-sense, flexible and effective rules that allow local TV stations to continue serving the educational needs of children.”