July 12, 2016 — FCC Comm. Michael O’Rielly called for Congress to authorize fees for priority access on shared spectrum, if an auction cannot be held, during the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology House Energy and Commerce Committee FCC oversight hearing held earlier this week.
O’Rielly has previous championed the idea of imposing spectrum fees – on federal government spectrum license holders to improve spectrum efficiency. On Tuesday, he proposed imposing fees in spectrum sharing environments where mutual exclusivity is not obtained.
“Specifically, as spectrum sharing becomes more prevalent and establishing mutual exclusivity becomes more difficult or undesired, the Commission is without a mechanism to prevent licenses from being awarded for free,” O’Rielly said in his written statement.
In particular, O’Rielly pointed to the 3.5 GHz proceeding where the FCC established a process by which federal government users, licensed commercial users (who can bid on Priority Access Licenses or PALs) and unlicensed commercial users could all operate within the band with protections afforded to incumbents first and then licensees second.
“One problem that arose – and still exists today – was defining mutual exclusivity for PALs and determining when spectrum auctions would be imposed,” O’Rielly wrote. “Under the approach taken in the Commission’s Report and Order, if only one entity seeks a PAL for a specific census tract, mutually exclusivity does not exist, no auction is held, and no PAL can be awarded.”
O’Rielly noted that without the protections afforded to licensed spectrum, companies might not invest in the development and deployment of a spectrum band. He suggested that mutual exclusivity should have a broader definition or a fee for spectrum use should be assessed.
“If this definitional problem cannot be resolved, in those instances where licenses are to be awarded – such as the PALs in 3.5 GHz – but there is only one applicant, then the Commission should be authorized to charge some type of spectrum fee, rather than not awarding the license or giving it away for free,” he said.