RTG refutes claim that the plan reflects industry consensus
The Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG) filed comments with the FCC today regarding CTIA’s plan on transitioning cellular service to geographic market-area licensing.
CTIA submitted a proposal in the FCC’s rulemaking proceeding for transitioning cellular service to geographic market-area licensing. CTIA proposes a two-step plan that would convert cellular service areas in fully-served markets to market-based license areas and retain the unserved area rules in under-served markets until the cellular area is deemed fully served at which time the unserved areas rules would sunset.
CTIA suggests that its plan reflects a consensus of all stakeholders. This is simply not the case. RTG, for one, was never contacted by CTIA to discuss its Revised Transition Plan and has not agreed to support that plan. To the contrary, RTG continues to believe that there should be no sunset of the FCC’s unserved area rules pursuant to which many sparsely populated areas of the country have received cellular service (and continue to do so) solely through the efforts of smaller rural carriers. Market-based licensing should not be used to preclude Phase II applications that propose to serve otherwise unserved areas. Nor should any unserved areas be allowed to revert to any licensee’s market by operation of a sunset mechanism.
Although cellular is a mature service widely deployed across the country, there remain areas that are unserved or underserved. While CTIA’s geographic licensing proposal may produce administrative efficiencies in larger non-rural markets that are fully served, this proposal will impede service to the unserved or underserved areas that exist in rural markets. RTG questions the wisdom of transitioning some markets and not others to geographical licensing in general and whether such procedure will create an administrative nightmare greater than that which exists today.
Summary of RTG’s specific concerns with CTIA’s plan
- CTIA proposes that cellular licensees be entitled to operate anywhere within the boundaries of their geographic license area subject to a 40 dBuV/m median field strength at the license area boundary unless adjacent area licensees have agreed to a higher field strength. This increased signal level raises interference and traffic capture concerns that would have to be resolved before market-based licensing can be implemented. To change the existing standard would clearly result in an increased number of boundary disputes. RTG also opposes any use of the 40 dBmV/m standard to redraw existing CGSAs, especially in markets subject to sunset under the proposal.
- While RTG supports a review to determine a more efficient formula that reflects digital service and its larger coverage patterns at lower powers, there is no basis to simply abandon the current standards and to pick a new dBu standard without fully assessing the ramifications of such a decision. There is not a single acceptable methodology to predict signal coverage and carriers cannot agree on the methodology to be employed due to use of different propagation modeling programs by different licensees.
- CTIA’s proposal to deem a market fully served when there are no contiguous unserved areas of 50 square miles remaining or when 90% of the total land area is served is overbroad and may lead to disputes when parties attempt to determine whether or not a market is fully served.
- Licensees should not be awarded exclusive rights to area(s) they do not serve and may never serve. RTG submits that the current unserved area rules work well and should remain in place.
- CTIA proposes that carrier disputes be resolved through arbitration. RTG believes that while carriers may agree to settle contractual disputes through arbitration, they cannot be required to do so. Additionally, many disputes involve policy matters that require FCC consideration and in the absence of a contractual agreement between the disputing parties, there is no basis for an arbitration proceeding or an arbitrator award.
About RTG – Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Rural Telecommunications Group is a trade association representing rural wireless carriers who serve less than 100,000 subscribers. RTG’s members have joined together to speed delivery of new, efficient and innovative telecommunications technologies to remote and underserved communities. www.ruraltelecomgroup.org @RTGwireless
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