Washington, D.C. – The Rural Wireless Association applauds the Federal Communications Commission on adopting an Order to establish the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program (ECIP) that will encourage licensees to partition, disaggregate, or lease spectrum to small carriers and Tribal Nations increasing rural wireless service availability. For far too long, many licensees have neglected rural license areas, further exacerbating the digital divide.
While RWA generally supports this program, it had filed comments in response to the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking making numerous suggestions that were not ultimately adopted by the Commission, including: (1) using megahertz rather than percentage when defining the minimum amount of spectrum to make a transaction eligible for ECIP benefits; (2) for rural-focused transactions, allowing the rural area to include a de minimis amount of non-rural area; and (3) adopting a “use it or lose it” provision, whereby any license area in an ECIP transaction that remains unserved at the end of a licensee’s second license term is removed from the licensee’s license area.
Even without adopting these proposals, RWA believes this program can encourage the necessary transactions that can expand telecommunications and broadband service in rural America. But there is still more work to be done to ensure that licensees in rural and Tribal areas actually participate in this program. RWA looks forward to working closely with the Commission to make sure the goals of this program are fully realized and to further participating in the Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also adopted today to determine if non-common carriers should be eligible for ECIP and to adopt alternative construction requirements.