Washington, D.C., – The following statement may be attributed to Carri Bennet, Rural Wireless Association, Inc. (“RWA”) General Counsel:
RWA is seeking Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) review of a Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB” or “Bureau”) decision to grant a waiver of both the interim and final geographic coverage requirements applicable to a Lower 700 MHz A Block wireless license held by Alaska Wireless Network, LLC (“AWN”). The waiver effectively changes a geographic build out requirement to a population build out requirement so that almost 97% of the geography in Alaska will remain unserved, depriving rural and remote villages in Alaska of 700 MHz wireless services.
While the Bureau gives lip service to the criteria used to grant rule waivers, there is no factual or analytical support for the Bureau’s assertions that a waiver is needed to expand service to rural areas or that enforcement of the Commission’s buildout policy would delay service to rural areas. Further, the record does not support the grant of a waiver based upon any hardship suffered by the licensee. The fact is that the license was allowed to lie fallow for seven and one-half years until AWN acquired it from T-Mobile last year and began construction just a few short months before the buildout deadline. The Bureau’s grant of a waiver under these circumstances establishes a dangerous precedent, re-writes existing law, and conflicts with sound public policy. It should be reversed and rescinded so that others interested in serving these rural and remote areas have access to the spectrum pursuant to long established FCC rules.