Melissa Slawson – Want to stay up-to-date on all of GeoLinks’ latest news and the world of telecom? Check out GeoLinks’ blog by visiting Geolinks.com/NEWS

Posts

Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

 

August 8, 2018

BEFORE THE

CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

 Rulemaking No. 12-10-012  (Filed October 25, 2012)

 

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. (U-7326-C) DBA GEOLINKS ON ASSIGNED COMMISSIONER RULING ON ELIGIBILITY FOR AND PRIORITIZATION OF CASF BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDS

 

California Internet, L.P. (U-7326-C) dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) respectfully submits these comments on the Assigned Commissioner Ruling Setting Workshops and Seeking Comment on Eligibility for and Prioritization of Broadband Infrastructure Funds from the California Advanced Services Fund (“ACR”), issued July 11, 2018.  Pursuant to the email ruling from July 26, 2018 by Administrative Law Judge Anthony Colbert extending the response date for the ACR to August 8, 2018, these comments are timely filed.

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

Headquartered in Camarillo, CA, GeoLinks is nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Hosted Voice solutions.  The Company’s proprietary ClearFiber™ product utilizes a combination of terrestrial fiber optic backhaul, carrier-grade full-duplex fixed wireless equipment, and FCC licensed spectrum to deliver ultra-reliable high-speed broadband Internet access via radio waves.[1]

GeoLinks is proud to service the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider in the state the California.  As a competitive broadband provider, GeoLinks is constantly seeking opportunities to expand its ever-growing fixed wireless broadband network to reach areas that are unserved by incumbent broadband providers or lack access to fiber connections.  The Company hopes to leverage its expertise in connecting unserved areas of the state to apply for California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”) funding in the coming year.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
    1. Eligibility and Challenge Process

Question 1.a.: 

Currently, ineligible census blocks are largely determined by a service provider’s claim(s) of serving households within such census blocks and information indicating subscriptions within these census blocks. However, not all households within such census blocks may have broadband internet access service (broadband service) available to them. Given the potential overstatement of ubiquitous availability within census blocks, should a census block only be CASF-eligible if the subscription rate within that census block is less than 40% of all households? We propose that a census block is considered served, if a majority of households in that block subscribe to wireline or fixed wireless Internet service. 

What should the CASF challenge process look like? Which trigger(s) should be used to start the challenge process for a CASF application? Which trigger(s) should be used to end the challenge process for a CASF application? Should the Commission create a single definitive list of CASF-eligible census blocks and a pre-application eligibility-map challenge process, as AT&T proposes? (See Opening Comments of AT&T on Phase II Staff Proposal, filed April 16, 2018, pp. 9-11).

Regarding the measurement of broadband availability, GeoLinks agrees with the assessment that under the current reporting process overstatement of availability is a possibility.  While some providers may truly offer service to every household within a census block, others may offer service to only a small subsect thereof (i.e. one household or one street).  In both cases, the whole census block would be deemed “served” for the purposes of CASF grant availability and broadband availability mapping.[2]  GeoLinks sees no value in the current “all or nothing” availability determination process and supports the suggestion set forth in the ACR that a census block should only be deemed “served” if availability within that census block meets some minimum percentage.

Specifically, the ACR suggests a 51% subscription threshold, which was modified to 40% in the July 25th workshop, to measure whether a census block is eligible for CASF funding.  As an initial matter GeoLinks cautions the Commission against conflating “subscription” with “availability.”  Subscription is not an exact measure for broadband availability as there are more factors than just “where infrastructure is” that dictate whether a consumer chooses to subscribe to the services offered.  That said, GeoLinks does not oppose the 40% proposal and believes that use of a subscription rate may be useful in incentivize existing service providers to improve their service offerings if they sense a threat of subsidized competition.  Specifically, it may encourage them to either increase broadband availability within the census block or ramp up broadband adoption efforts to increase subscribership.  In either event, GeoLinks believes that this will help the Commission towards its goal of ubiquitous broadband access.

Should the Commission adopt a benchmark subscription rate by which to determine whether or not a census block is eligible for CASF funding, GeoLinks urges the Commission to add this information to the California Broadband Map as a separate layer.  This will allow service providers interested in CASF funding to assess all census blocks available for funding.

Regarding the challenge process, GeoLinks does not oppose the 21-day challenge process proposed in the Phase II Staff Proposal (“Staff Proposal”) set forth in the Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling (“Scoping Ruling”), issued February 14, 2018, which would be triggered upon the filing of an application.  The ACR also specifically asks about AT&T’s proposal, as set forth in its Opening Comments on the Staff Proposal.  While GeoLinks does not oppose some of AT&T’s suggestions, on the whole, GeoLinks does not believe AT&T’s proposal is in the best interests of the CASF program.

AT&T proposes that the Commission create “a definitive list of all CASF-eligible census blocks each year before applications are submitted.”[3]  While GeoLinks sees value in having a definitive list of eligible census blocks, the Company does not support the concept that this list will only be updated annually.  As GeoLinks advocated in its opening comments on the Scoping Ruling, there should be more than one CASF application period per year.  Specifically, GeoLinks explained that a bi-annual submission process will incentivize more service providers to participate in the CASF program than a single, annual submission window.[4]  Unlike larger companies that may have their fiber builds planned out a year or more in advance given the time associated with deploying and undergrounding fiber, smaller companies that utilize other technologies, such as fixed wireless, may have more flexibility to take on projects throughout the year.  Moreover, because these smaller companies may have finite network design and deployment resources to dedicate to large builds, a bi-annual application process will allow these companies to determine if the latter portion of the year is better for network project.

AT&T’s proposal would mean the creation of one static list that would not necessarily be updated as service providers may, independently of the CASF program, improve their networks.  While this would make the challenge process more streamlined, it could also mean providing CASF subsidies in areas where broadband becomes available after the creation of the list OR could lead to disincentivizing independent network investment in areas that are CASF eligible.

GeoLinks strongly urges the Commission not to limit CASF applications to one time per year as this structure only serves to benefit the larger carriers.  In addition, while GeoLinks supports the idea of a definitive list of CASF-eligible areas, the Company believes that this list should be updated more than once a year.  If the Commission were to establish such as list as a means for challenging CASF grant applications, it must be updated regularly to ensure that new served areas are not subsidized.

Question 1.b.: 

What should the challenger have to prove (household subscription rate and broadband service speed) during the challenge process? What information should be required of the challengers to an application, other than what is currently proposed in the Staff Proposal? What information should be required of challengers to determine eligibility as indicated on the California Interactive Broadband Availability Map (as proposed by AT&T)? Could such a pre-application eligibility map challenge partially or entirely replace the post-application challenge? If yes, explain. Is the 21-day staff proposed challenge window timeline and challenge criteria also sufficient for the eligibility-map challenge process?  Should the challenges vary by technology? (e.g., should the burden of proof for a fixed wireless Internet service provider submitting a challenge be different than that of a wireline provider?) Why or why not?

As stated above, GeoLinks generally supports the challenge process set forth in the Staff Proposal.  In addition, GeoLinks believes that the 21-day challenge process is sufficient for challenging Broadband Map eligibility, as well, so long as all interested parties are notified when the map is updated and the 21-day process is not triggered until notice is provided.  Whatever challenge process the Commission decides on, GeoLinks asserts that challenge rules (and all CASF rules) must be technology neutral.

As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments on the Scoping Memo, the Commission has made clear its stated goal of administering the CASF program on a “technology neutral” basis.[5]  However, despite this mandate, both the Staff Proposal and now the ACR make recommendations or ask questions that are definitively not technology neutral.  Specifically, the Staff Proposal proposes per household cost thresholds for ministerial review that differ so drastically by technology type that it gives fiber-based projects an inherent advantage.[6]  Now, in the ACR, the Commission asks whether challenges should vary by technology and asks if the burden of proof should be different for fixed wireless providers.[7]  GeoLinks strongly argues that the answer to those questions should be a resounding no.

As an initial matter, the ACR does not explain what this different burden of proof may be or provide any information regarding how a challenge by a fixed wireless provider may differ from a challenge by a traditional, wireline provider.  Fixed wireless providers can provide all of the information that would be required in the Staff Proposal’s challenge report including the geographic location of all served households.  Moreover, fixed wireless providers submit Form 477 data to the FCC and supplemental mapping data to the Commission that can be compared to and concurrently mapped with data provided by wireline providers.  Without clarification, GeoLinks fails to see the need for or benefit in requiring a different standard for fixed wireless service providers that would not be required for other providers.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to adhere to its mandate to administer the CASF program on a technology neutral basis to avoid creating an unfair advantage for one technology type over another that would only serve to thwart interest in the CASF program.

  1. Prioritizing Projects and Areas to Support

GeoLinks supports the idea of prioritizing areas that the Commission or certain stakeholders believe to be priority areas for CASF funding.  While GeoLinks does not have specific areas or census blocks that it recommends be listed as priority areas at this time, the Company requests that if such lists are created that they be updated regularly to account for completed CASF projects, changes in broadband availability, changes in priority levels and/ or demographic information, etc.  This will ensure that the areas in the most need retain priority status while others that may no longer meet the criteria for priority status are downgraded.  Specifically, GeoLinks recommends that these areas be reviewed and updated annually based on updated broadband mapping data and input from broadband consortia groups, municipalities, and other interested stake holders.

  1. Providing Access to Broadband Service to Areas Adjacent to CAF II Areas

Question 3:

The number of eligible CAF II locations exceeds the number of required locations to which CAF II providers must offer service. Many census blocks may have more households than CAF II eligible locations, meaning that some households will not benefit. How can the Commission incentivize CAF II providers to build beyond their commitments to the Federal Communications Commission?  In order to incentivize CAF II providers to deploy throughout the community and in areas adjacent to CAF II areas, should the Commission:

  1. Provide an expedited review process to approve supplemental grants to expand CAF II-related projects?
  2. Should there be a separate process or set-aside of funding for these supplemental builds?
  3. Should supplemental grants be tied to the release of CAF II plans? Should areas where CAF II providers do not commit to build out be reclassified as eligible?
  4. How should the interests of the CAF II providers to choose which CAF II areas they build out to with federal funding while also requiring them to complete other projects in the state) be balanced with competitor interest in bidding to build out in those same communities?

As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments on the Scoping Memo, in adopting any rules related to the treatment of Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF II”) recipients, GeoLinks urges the Commission to remember that these recipients made commitments to the FCC in exchange for receipt of CAF II funds.  Specifically, these providers agreed that in exchange for the model-based support they would “deploy voice and broadband-capable networks to all supported locations that are deemed ‘high-cost’ and not served by an unsubsidized competitor.”[8]  If a CAF II recipient fails to meet these commitments (either by only completing a portion of an area or not completing an area at all), the Commission should not allow them to game the system and benefit from CASF funding.

Regarding areas where CAF II recipients will complete the requisite buildout, the ACR clearly points to the issue with CAF II funding – that the number of locations the CAF II recipient is required to serve does match the actual number of eligible locations in the same area.  Inevitably, once the CAF II recipients have completed their commitments under CAF II, there will be gaps in broadband coverage.  From a CASF funding perspective, these areas may still be eligible for subsidy under the 40% minimum subscription threshold.  However, because finalization of CAF II obligations is not required until July 2020, this still presents the challenge of long delays before the Commission can address the issue.

GeoLinks believes that information regarding where a CAF II recipient plans to offer broadband within a CAF II area is crucial in CASF planning and sees benefit in offering CASF incentives to CAF II providers who are forthcoming with this information.  Namely, if a CAF II provider is willing to provide the Commission with detailed information regarding what locations within an eligible census block it plans to provide service to, pursuant to its CAF II obligations, then the Commission could offer the CAF II recipient incentives to build out to the remaining locations within an eligible area with CASF matching funds.

In its opening comments, GeoLinks suggested a mandatory waiting period to apply for CASF grants for CAF II providers that bowed out of their FCC commitments.  GeoLinks believes that a similar approach might be appropriate for CAF II recipients that choose (or not) to share information regarding its build out plans with the Commission.  For example, if the CAF II recipient provided this information to the Commission within a specified timeframe from the date of the final Decision in this proceeding (as determined by the Commission), then GeoLinks would support the ability for the CAF II provider to apply for CASF funding on an expedited basis to provide service to the entire eligible area.  However, GeoLinks believes that the incentives should diminish the longer a CAF II recipient waits to provide information to the Commission.  Also, if a CAF II recipient declines to inform the Commission about its buildout plans, GeoLinks urges the Commission to preclude the CAF II recipient from being able to apply for CASF funding for any of its remaining CAF II eligible locations and open those areas up to other CASF applicants as soon as possible.

 

  1. Middle-Mile Infrastructure

Question 5:

How should the Commission verify that a middle-mile build included in a proposed project is “indispensable” to that project, as required by statute? Should Commission Staff rely on the middle-mile location information providers submitted as ordered in D.16-12-025? If middle-mile infrastructure already exists near the proposed project area, under what circumstances may an applicant build its own middle-mile infrastructure? If middle-mile infrastructure already exists near the proposed project area, should there be a limit on how much infrastructure may be built? (e.g., 10 miles, 5 miles, etc.) For purposes of grant funding, is leasing or purchasing middle-mile facilities for terms beyond five years (e.g., IRU for 20 years) allowable or even preferred over building new infrastructure? Alternatively, is a challenge to the project application sufficient to prove it is not indispensable, or a lack of a challenge sufficient to prove that it is?

Access to middle-mile infrastructure is always integral to a proposed network build and broadband providers have to consider many factors when determining whether to attempt to interconnect with existing middle-mile or construct their own.  These factors may include middle-mile proximity, circuit availability, circuit reliability, lease terms, topography, population, available technology, and, of course, cost.  Regardless of the specific factors at play for a proposed project, they all must be weighed on a case-by-case basis.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to consider the factors that CASF applicants will need to weigh and refrain from creating overly-restrictive rules that may hinder a service provider’s ability to complete a proposed project.

As an initial matter, in GeoLinks’ experience, areas that are without high speed broadband connections are also generally without the infrastructure to provide high speed broadband.  This includes not only last mile facilities, but middle-mile, as well.  In these instances, middle-mile infrastructure is undeniably “indispensable” to a proposed project because, without it, there would be no project.

Moreover, even if there is backhaul or middle-mile infrastructure close to a project area, it does not necessarily mean that it is accessible.  GeoLinks recently constructed significant last mile network in the Inland Empire area of California, a predominantly agricultural region that suffered from a lack of last-mile fiber infrastructure.  After 8 months of unsuccessful discussions with the regional incumbent Local Exchange Carrier to negotiate interconnection, GeoLinks was able to obtain interconnection from a reseller.  In this instance, if interconnection had not been available from the reseller, last-mile connections to this area would not have been possible without the construction of extensive middle-mile facilities.  GeoLinks asserts that in such instances this middle-mile infrastructure would have been indispensable to the project despite the proximity of other middle-mile infrastructure.

GeoLinks suggests that the Commission determine whether middle-mile is “indispensable” to a project by requiring CASF applicants that propose to construct middle-mile as part of a proposed project to explain in their applications whether existing middle-mile options, if any, were considered and reasons why that middle-mile is either not a viable option or not cost effective.  GeoLinks believes that this approach will achieve the Commission’s goal of only funding “indispensable” middle-mile infrastructure while giving network providers the flexibility necessary to determine the best approach to building robust, high speed broadband networks.

//

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to consider these comments and implement final CASF rules that ensure flexibility for competitive carriers, technology neutral administration of the program, incentives for participation, and prevent gaming of the program to block competition.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

/s/ Melissa Slawson

 

Melissa Slawson

General Counsel/ V.P. of Government Affairs and Education

California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks

251 Camarillo Ranch Rd

Camarillo, CA 93012

 

August 8, 2018

 

[1] For more information about fixed-wireless technology and GeoLinks’ Clearfiber™ network, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8GvGOKCpnk
[2] Assuming minimum speed requirements are met.
[3] Opening Comments of AT&T on Phase II Staff Proposal (filed April 16, 2018), at 9.
[4] Opening Comments of GeoLinks on Phase II Staff Proposal (filed April 16, 2018), at 8.
[5] Interim Opinion Implementing California Advanced Services Fund, Decision 07-12-054 (rel. December 20, 2007), at 8: “The CASF shall be administered on a technology neutral basis by the Commission.”  See also Id. At 28: “CASF funding proposals will be reviewed based upon how well they meet the criteria for selection as set forth below, and, where applicable, compared with any competing claims to match the deployment offer under superior terms. Such criteria should be evaluated on a competitively neutral basis.” (Emphasis added).
[6] See Staff Proposal at Section 1.7.
[7] ACR at 5.
[8] Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, Order, Memorandum Opinion and Order, Seventh Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 29 FCC Rcd 7051 (rel. June 10, 2014), at para. 60.

Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

In the Matter of Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules | WP Docket No. 07-100

 

REPLY COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to the Commission’s Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the above-captioned proceeding.[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

GeoLinks largely supports the comments filed by the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (“WISPA”) and Federated Wireless.  As an initial matter, and as both WISPA and Federated Wireless point out, the 4.9 GHz band is highly underutilized.[2]  To meet the Commission’s stated goal “to ensure that public safety continues to have priority in the band while opening up the band to additional users that will facilitate increased usage,” both parties propose sharing techniques that would allow commercial users to utilize the band while protecting public safety users from harmful interference.  GeoLinks believes that this approach is appropriate for the 4.9 GHz band and will help the Commission reach its stated goals.[3]

 

  1. DISCUSSION

As the Commission explains, the 4.9 GHz. Band has “fallen short of its potential.”[4]  Despite the fact that the Commission has recognized the underutilization of the band, some commenters attempt to persuade the Commission that the 4.9 GHz band should not be opened up to commercial use.  The Region 21 700 MHz Planning Committee appears to urge the Commission not to open the band up to any additional licensees claiming that “additional spectrum exists to accommodate these users.”[5]  In addition, the Utilities Technology Council, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and the GridWise Alliance (“UTC/EEI/NRECA/Gridwise”) assert that doing so “would threaten to diminish the reliability of the band, which would in turn discourage investment by utilities and public safety and indeed effectively displace them from the band as a practical matter.”[6]

GeoLinks asserts that the band can be utilized for commercial users while also ensuring protection for public safety users.  By utilizing an automated spectrum management database system, such as those proposed by WISPA and Federated Wireless, the band could support “dynamic secondary use of the 4.9 GHz band while ensuring that primary public safety users maintain priority access and are able to operate across the band without interference from secondary users.”[7]  As Federated Wireless explains, dynamic shared spectrum is already well understood and is becoming more readily recognized for its capabilities to effectuate enhanced spectrum usage and protect users from harmful interference.[8]

In addition, GeoLinks believes that opening up the 4.9 GHz band to commercial users will encourage investment in the band by all users, not diminish it as UTC/EEI/NRECA/Gridwise suggests.  Specifically, allowing commercial users (i.e. those with commercial capital) to utilize the band will promote technological improvement by driving up demand for compatible equipment, which, in turn, will drive down price.  Moreover, as both WISPer and Federated Wireless point out, the 4.9 GHz band is in “spectral proximity” to the 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands.[9]   GeoLinks believes that use of the 4.9 GHz band by commercial entities will encourage equipment manufacturers to create equipment that is also compatible for these other bands, increasing equipment efficiency and encouraging additional investment in the band.  This will benefit not only commercial users but primary, public safety users, as well.

 

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to allow for commercial use of the 4.9 GHz band on a secondary basis through dynamic spectrum sharing.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

August 6, 2018

[1] Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules, Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WP Docket No. 07-100, FCC 18-33 (rel. March 23, 2018) (“FNPRM”).
[2] See Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) (“WISPA Comments”) at 2 and Comments of Federated Wireless, Inc., WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) (“Federated Wireless Comments”) at 3.
[3] While GeoLinks proposed that sharing within the band be conducted on a licensed or light-licensed approach, the Company is not opposed to implementation of a dynamic spectrum sharing approach.  That said, GeoLinks urges the Commission to continue to consider licensed or light-licensed approaches for other bands that are well-suited for fixed wireless broadband use.
[4] FNPRM at para 1.
[5] Comments of Region 21 700 MHz Planning Committee, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) at 3.
[6] Comments of the Utilities Technology Council, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Gridwise Alliance, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) at 3.
[7] WISPA Comments at 5.
[8] See Federated Wireless Comments at 6.
[9] See WISPA at Comments at 6 and Federated Wireless Comments at 17.

In the Matter of Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

In the Matter of Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band | GN Docket No. 18-122 

 

REPLY COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to comments received on the Public Notice issued on May 1, 2018.[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks believes that the 3.7-4.2 GHz band ​is​ ​well-suited​ ​to​ ​support​ point-to-multipoint (“P2MP”) ​​broadband​ ​access.  As GeoLinks has previously stated, P2MP service options are ideal because they allow a wireless service provider to provide dedicated high-speed broadband connections to several end-users (i.e. several households throughout a community) from one location, requiring fewer towers and less equipment than point-to-point connections.  This is especially beneficial in rural and high-cost areas and can provide much-needed competition to incumbent providers in urban and suburban areas.  With the appropriate rules, the Commission can ensure P2MP use is feasible in the band, which will result in more affordable, high-speed broadband and increased broadband competition.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
  2. The Commission Should Open an NPRM to Assess the Viability of the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band

As stated in the Public Notice, the Commission must assess “the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services” in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band and submit a report to Congress on its findings.[2]  While the Commission could draft a standalone report in compliance with this directive, GeoLinks believes that this presents an opportunity for the Commission to do a deeper dive into how best to utilize the band.  As stated in its opening comments, GeoLinks believes that the 3.7-4.2 GHz band offers an opportunity for the Commission to allocate spectrum resources in a way that will promote competition and help bridge the digital divide while protecting current users of the band.  Issuing an NPRM in this proceeding would allow the Commission to create a robust record regarding potential uses of the band and technical guidance regarding sharing mechanisms that it may be able to apply to other bands, as well. As such, GeoLinks agrees with T-Mobile that the Commission should open an NPRM in this proceeding and base any report provided to Congress based on the record created as a result.[3]

 

  1. The 3.7-4.2 GHz Band Should Not Be Used Exclusively for Mobile

There is a common theme echoed by the mobile wireless commenters that the 3.7-4.2 band should allocated “for mobile broadband use on a flexible basis”[4] and that the “adjacency to the 3.5 GHz band” justify the “allocating and repurposing” of a large swath of the band for 5G services.[5]  However, earmarking the band for mobile broadband services exclusively is not the best use of the band to promote immediate utilization and public interest.

Spectrum is, first and foremost, a public resource and should be allocated in ways that promotes immediate and robust use of it.  As GeoLinks noted in its opening comments, the Company agrees with the Broadband Access Coalition (“BAC”) that the band “is not now, and will not for several years, be suitable for mobile use given the existing deployment of FSS earth stations and FS P2P links.”[6]  In its opening comments, even T-Mobile acknowledges this fact stating that “T-Mobile recognizes that not all 500 MHz may be available immediately for exclusive terrestrial operations in all locations.”[7]  In part, this is because optimal mobile use of the band would require the FCC to repack existing users into another portion of the band or to another band all together.[8]  Or, in the alternative, would request that FSS stations be forced to utilize fiber connections to replace downlinks to earth station receivers or even relocate earth stations to more remote locations.[9]

As the Satellite Industry Association (“SIA”) explains, the satellite industry has already invested significant resources into the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.[10]  Forcing license holders to shift to a new portion of the band (potentially requiring new transmission equipment), to physically relocate infrastructure (requiring construction and potentially triggering environmental review), or to completely restructure technology platforms could require these companies to lose the benefit of their investments and potentially force them to incur significant costs.[11]

GeoLinks fails to see the public interest argument for requiring license holders to incur potentially significant costs or for additional administrative oversight to repack the band when the band could be utilized now, as is.  GeoLinks asserts that P2MP technology can be utilized in the band almost immediately without interfering with existing users and without requiring existing users to uproot their existing systems and infrastructure.

 

  1. Spectrum Sharing is Possible in the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band with the Appropriate Coordination Practices

Contrary to claims made by some commenters, sharing IS possible in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.  While CTIA, for example, is correct that it is not possible for existing users of the band to share with mobile broadband providers, this does not apply to fixed broadband providers.[12]

As explained in its opening comments, GeoLinks (as well as other fixed wireless broadband providers) can coordinate its use of a frequency around any fixed point that may be necessary (i.e. an FSS earth station).  Unlike mobile wireless, fixed wireless technology uses directional antennas and fixed transmission points that travel in a designated path.  Between those connection points, fiber optic technology is used.  This is demonstrated in the figure below.

 

GeoLinks' Fixed Wireless

FIGURE 1: GeoLinks ClearFiber™ Distribution[13]

 

Compare this figure to that provided in NCTA’s comments, showing directional transmission connections between satellites and fixed, terrestrial points.[14]  So long as the transmission path between towers and receiving equipment is engineered to avoid overlap with another signal utilizing the same spectrum, interference can be avoided.[15]  With respect to the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, if the locations of FSS earth stations and their transmission paths are known, this can be accomplished.

To that end, if an FSS earth station is properly registered and identified within the band, it can be protected from interference – and should be.  However, as SIA notes, up to 90% of earth stations are unregistered.[16]  GeoLinks agrees with Google that “unregistered or incorrectly registered earth stations should not be entitled to interference protections.”[17]  This includes FSS stations that do not timely file their registrations with the FCC.  GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to update its FSS earth station database and believes this is an important first step to better utilization of the band.

 

  1. The Commission Should Consider Strict Buildout and Usage Requirements for New Users of the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band

GeoLinks reiterates that any spectrum license should carry with it the requirement to serve the public interest – including for shared or light licensed spectrum.  Any additional use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band should be subject to strict buildout and service requirements to help promote broadband deployment in rural areas.[18]  These requirements will alleviate the risk of spectrum warehousing and encourage rapid deployment of high-speed broadband by band users.

/

/

/

/

/

/

/

  • CONCLUSION

In conclusion, GeoLinks urges the Commission to open an NPRM in this proceeding to consider the feasibility of and create rules for commercial wireless services under a shared, light licensed regime with robust build out requirements.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

June 15, 2018

[1] Office of Engineering and Technology, International, and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus Seek Comment for Report on the Feasibility of Allowing Commercial Wireless Services, Licensed or Unlicensed, to Use or Share Use of the Frequencies Between 3.7-4.2 GHz, Public Notice, GN Docket 18-122, DA 18-446 (re. May 1, 2018).
[2] Public Notice at 1-2.
[3] Comments of T-Mobile, GN Docket No. 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 4 (“T-Mobile Comments”).  In addition, opening an NPRM would satisfy NCTA’s concern that proponents of sharing operations within the band “have not filed robust technical analysis” in the proceeding.  Comments of NCTA – the Internet & Television Association, GN Docket No. 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 8 (“NCTA Comments”).
[4] T-Mobile Comments at 8.
[5] Comments of CTIA, GN Docket No. 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 5 (“CTIA Comments”).
[6] Broadband Access Coalition, Petition for Rulemaking to Amend and Modernize Parts 25 and 101 of the Commission’s Rules to Authorize and Facilitate the Deployment of Licensed Point-to-Multipoint Fixed Wireless Broadband Service in the 3700-4200 MHz Band, RM-11791 (filed June 21, 2017), at 6 (“Petition”).
[7] T-Mobile Comments at 10
[8] CTIA Comments at 3.
[9] See CTIA Comments at 6.
[10] See Comments of the Satellite Industry Association, GN Docket No 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 2-3 (SIA Comments).
[11] GeoLinks notes that one of the reasons that many rural Americans lack high-speed broadband connections is the high cost associated with fiber buildouts in remote areas.   These costs would also be high for any satellite provider forced to construct new fiber to replace downlinks to earth station receivers.
[12] See CTIA Comments at 2.
[13] ClearFiber™ is GeoLinks’ flagship fixed wireless product, offering dedicated, business-class internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, guaranteed speeds, and backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support.
[14] See Figure 1: Cable Video Distribution, NCTA Comments at 3.
[15] With the correct design, in most areas, FCC stations can be avoided by the 30-75 kms that NCTA explains would be required to protect earth stations from harmful interference. See NCTA Comments at 7.
[16] SIA Comments at 3.
[17] Comments of Google LLC, GN Docket 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 3
[18] Specifically, GeoLinks recommends build out to a minimum number of locations.  In the alternative, GeoLinks recommends that the Commission require any new band user to make a showing that they are actually serving customers over the band within a reasonable timeframe.

Reply Comments on Phase II — Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling

BEFORE THE

CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund.  |   Rulemaking No. 12-10-012 (Filed October 25, 2012)

 

REPLY COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. (U-7326-C) DBA GEOLINKS ON PHASE II OF THE FEBRUARY 14, 2018 AMENDED SCOPING MEMO AND ASSIGNED COMMISSIONER’S RULING

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

California Internet, L.P. (U-7326-C) dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”)[1] respectfully submits these reply comments on the Phase II Staff Proposal set forth in the February 14, 2018 Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling (“Ruling”).

 

  1. DISCUSSION
    1. The Per Household Threshold for Ministerial Review Should be Technology Neutral

As noted in its Opening Comments, GeoLinks supports Staff’s proposal to create a ministerial review process for certain projects.  The Company believes that such a process will reserve Commission resources and encourage more participation in the CASF program.  However, commenters agree that the per household cost thresholds Staff proposes for this ministerial review process should be changed.  For example, the California Cable and Telecommunications Association (“CCTA”) asserts that these thresholds are not technology neutral, explaining that the thresholds give “fiber-to-the-home a 12-13 times cost advantage over other technologies.”[2]  The Joint Consumers urge the Commission to “ensure that applicants interested in the expedited process develop cost-effective project plans” after addressing that the $15,560 figure for fiber is “relatively high.”[3]  In addition, Frontier objects to the cost-per-household criteria explaining that “[u]se of prior CASF cost per household as a criteria for expedited treatment is not justified, prudent, or pursuant to any legislative direction.”[4]

In its opening comments, GeoLinks urged the Commission to set a flat cost per household threshold for its ministerial review process that would apply to all CASF applicants, regardless of technology type.  Some commenters proposed different ideas for these thresholds.  Joint Consumers suggest that the Commission develop a cost model equation for estimating fiber costs.  Though GeoLinks is not opposed to the creation of a cost model, this proposed solution does not get at the heart of the issue – that different technology types are placed on different footing under Staff’s proposal.  Instead, while not specifically proposed in the context of ministerial review, GeoLinks urges the Commission to take note of Frontier’s suggestion to create a review threshold where total project costs are below $5 million, and/ or cost per-household is below $3000 (seemingly regardless of technology-type) and apply a similar structure to the ministerial review process.[5]  GeoLinks asserts that regardless of what threshold, methodology, equation, etc. Staff uses for its ministerial review, it must be applied equally to all projects, regardless of technology type.

 

  1. The Commission Should Adopt and Adhere to the Proposed 21-day Challenge Process

Several commenters make suggestions regarding the appropriate process for challenging proposed CASF projects.  As an initial matter, GeoLinks believes that the challenge process is important to ensure CASF funds are not spent on projects where there is existing broadband service but asserts that the Commission must strike a balance to ensure adequate time to challenge without creating a challenge process that will cause endless delays to CASF project review.  As Race Telecommunications Communications Inc. (“Race”) attests, late challenges cause delays and can result in additional costs to an applicant.[6]   Therefore, GeoLinks supports the proposed 21-calendar day challenge process, but, similar to Race, only if there is strict adherence to it.[7]

GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject other proposed challenge processes and timeframes presented by other commenters that would significantly expand or contract the 21-day proposed process.  Joint Consumers, for example, propose “a 45-day challenge window from the date the application” is filed.[8]  While, Joint Consumers assert that 21-days may not be enough time to ensure substantive and meaningful challenges, it fails to provide any examples.[9]  GeoLinks asserts that for carriers who are actively tracking the CASF process and are on the CASF Distribution List, 21-days is sufficient to prepare and submit a challenge.  In addition, a 21-day limit ensures no unreasonable delays by a would-be challenger that could ultimately slow down the application process.

On the flip side, AT&T essentially suggests that the project-specific challenge process be eliminated.  AT&T urges the Commission to compose a list of eligible census blocks, including which are designated as low-income or high-priority, that carriers can use to prepare CASF applications.[10]  However, AT&T suggests that this list be created “each year before applications are submitted.”[11]  This proposal assumes one application period per year and fails to account for the ever-changing broadband landscape in California and for business model differences between larger, incumbent, fiber-based carriers and smaller, more nimble, competitive carriers.  First, due to the process for reporting and mapping broadband availability data, the California Broadband map does not change in real-time as availability changes.  Second, because smaller, competitive carriers may not be limited by fiber construction requirements, such as fixed-wireless providers, network deployment efforts can happen on a more rapid basis.  Limiting the ability to challenge CASF projects to once a year may mean CASF subsidies funding projects in areas where deployment occurs after the list is created (and the initial challenge period has been exhausted).  Or, it may have the effect of disincentivizing carriers from deploying their own infrastructure to unserved areas of the state outside of the CASF process.  In either event, AT&T’s proposed process should be rejected.

GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt its proposed 21-day process and reject any proposal to expand or contract that challenge window.

 

  1. The Commission Must Ensure the Right of First Refusal Submissions Process Does Not Become a Mechanism for Blocking Competition

As stated in its opening comments, GeoLinks urges the Commission to implement rules to ensure carriers do not use the Right of First Refusal (“ROFR”) process to block areas where they have no intention to deploy broadband infrastructure.  Several commenters express similar sentiments.  Gold Country Broadband Consortium, for example, expresses the importance for the Commission to understand how the ROFR process could be used to block competition, innovation and opportunity.[12]  Moreover, similar to GeoLinks’ suggestion, some commenters agree that there should be negative consequences for ROFR providers that fail to complete projects in a timely manner.[13]  GeoLinks maintains that the Commission should consider penalties for failure to construct an ROFR area after the initial 180-day period, or any granted extension, such as preclusion from participating in the CASF program.

 

  1. Connect America Fund Recipients Should be Subject to Mandatory Waiting Periods Before Becoming Eligible to Apply for CASF Funding.

As stated in its opening comments, in adopting any rules related to the treatment of Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF”) recipients, GeoLinks urges the Commission to remember that these recipients made commitments to the FCC in exchange for receipt of CAF funds.  As an initial matter, GeoLinks agrees with CETF that there should be a waiting period before a CASF Application can be submitted for a CAF area.[14]  However, as GeoLinks suggested in its opening comments, this waiting period should apply specifically to the CAF recipient that opted not to complete a CAF build in that area.

As a specific example, GeoLinks cited a notice filed by Frontier in which it informed the Commission that it would not be pursuing a specific CAF area (Desert Shores) and the CASF application for the exact same area that Frontier filed the very next day.  In its opening comments, Frontier appears to laud its own actions as an effort to “leverage CAF deployment” and alerts the Commission that it may follow a similar path in other areas, depending on the Commission’s actions on its CASF application.[15]

While GeoLinks supports leveraging federal funds to maximize the effectiveness of the CASF program, GeoLinks does not support Frontier’s actions.  As GeoLinks noted in its opening comments, Frontier essentially blocked all other broadband providers from being able to seek CASF funding to serve the Desert Shores area – providers that may have proposed a better project for the area than that proposed by Frontier.  As such, GeoLinks continues to suggest CAF recipients that relinquish a CAF area be subject to minimum a 90-day mandatory waiting period before a CASF application for that area can be submitted (or longer, depending on when notice is provided).[16]

 

  1. The Commission Should Allow More Than One CASF Application Submission Period Each Calendar Year

GeoLinks agrees with other commenters that there should be more than one CASF application deadline per year.  In the Proposal, Staff addresses the approval delays that have, to date, been commonplace in the CASF program.[17]  Specifically, staff proposes two CASF grant application opportunities each year (every 180 days).  GeoLinks supports the notion of more than one application period per year.  As Race points out, an annual submission is too rigid and will result in more delated broadband service to the public.[18]  GeoLinks agrees and urges the Commission to adopt Race’s suggestion to accept CASF applications on a rolling basis, not on a set schedule.[19]

At a minimum, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt at least two application periods and reject any attempt to reduce the number of application periods.  Specifically, GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject AT&T’s suggestion that there should be a single deadline for CASF applications.[20]  As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments, more application periods will incentivize more service providers to participate in the CASF program.  As explained above, because smaller, competitive carriers may not be limited by fiber construction requirement, such as fixed-wireless providers, network deployment efforts can happen on a more rapid basis, meaning that decisions to expand existing infrastructure can happen more quickly.  Ignoring these factors when finalizing rules for the CASF program could ultimately disincentivize competitive carriers from applying at all.  As the Commission seeks to incentivize more participation in the CASF program, GeoLinks believes that ensuring multiple opportunities to submit CASF applications will help further this goal and encourages the Commission to adopt rules accordingly.

 

  1. Higher Proposed Speeds Should be Given More Weight as a Scoring Criteria

GeoLinks echoes the disappointment of other commenters regarding the changes to speed thresholds set forth in AB 1665.[21]  Therefore, the Commission must do something to ensure that unserved areas of California do not fall too far behind the national standard of 25 Mbps / 3 Mbps implemented by the FCC.

The Commission should reject outright AT&T’s assertion that because 10/1 “is a mandatory prerequisite for any application, the Commission should eliminate the points that Staff proposes to allocate for bandwidth speed.”[22]  This “good enough” approach does nothing to future-proof network design to ensure adequate speed and capacity for years to come and runs contrary to the goals of the CASF program.[23]  Instead, GeoLinks strongly agrees with Race that applications with faster speeds should be scored higher that those that propose slower speeds.[24]

 

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt changes that ensure technology neutral administration of the CASF program, incentives for participation, promote robust, “future proof” CASF projects, and prevent gaming of the program to block competition.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

/s/ Melissa Slawson

 

Melissa Slawson

General Counsel, V.P. of Government Affairs and Education

California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks

251 Camarillo Ranch Rd

Camarillo, CA 93012

 

May 1, 2018

 

[1] For more information about fixed-wireless technology and GeoLinks’ Clearfiber™ network, visit https://geolinks.com/what-is-fixed-wireless-internet
[2] CCTA Opening Comments at 9-10, expressing concern that “the criteria for triggering ‘expedited ministerial review’ is not ‘technology neutral’ as required by Pub. Util. Code § 281(f)(1).”
[3] The Utility Reform Network, and the Greenlining Institute (“Joint Consumers”) Opening Comments at 2.
[4] Citizens Telecommunications Company of California Inc., Frontier Communications of the Southwest Inc., and Frontier California Inc. (“Frontier”) Opening Comments at 5.
[5] GeoLinks supports this flat per-household cost but cautions against the price-per-project cost without additional requirements (perhaps such as minimum households served, or minimum area covered, etc.).
[6] Race Opening Comments at 9.
[7] See Id. at 9.
[8] Joint Consumers Opening Comments at 15.
[9] Id. at 14.
[10] AT&T Opening Comments at 10.
[11] Id. at 9.
[12] Gold Country Broadband Consortium Opening Comments at 2.
[13] California Emerging Technology Fund (“CETF”) Opening Comments at 3.
[14] Id. at 2.
[15] Frontier Opening Comments at 9
[16] See GeoLinks’ Opening Comments at 7.
[17] Ruling, Appendix C. at 13.
[18] Race Opening Comments at 8.
[19] Id. at 8.
[20] See AT&T at 19 and at FN 12.
[21] See e.g. Race Communications at 4, California Center for Rural Policy, Rural County Representatives of California, Upstate California Connect Consortium and the Northeastern California Connect Consortium at 6, North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium at 5.
[22] AT&T Opening Comments at 22.
[23] See Joint Consumers Opening Comments at 11, suggesting that the Commission look to more factors than cost when assessing scoring criteria.
[24] Race Opening Comments at 5.

SHLB to Release Cost Estimate and Broadband Strategy to Connect Rural America

CONTACT:
Amy Robinson, [email protected], (202) 261-6599

SHLB (SCHOOLS, HEALTH & LIBRARIES BROADBAND COALITION) PRESS CALL

REGISTER HERE

 

“Anchor institutions are key to solving the rural broadband gap.”

Washington, D.C. – (Monday, February 12th) – The SHLB Coalition (Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition) will release on Thursday a holistic broadband strategy to close the digital divide in rural markets. Particularly timely following the release of the Trump Administration’s infrastructure proposal earlier today, SHLB’s rural broadband strategy will focus on deploying high-capacity broadband “to and through anchors” to the surrounding community through wireless and wireline technologies, a strategy that could solve the digital divide for millions of rural Americans.

SHLB will hold a conference call with reporters THURSDAY, February 15th, at 11:00 am ET.

On the call, SHLB will release a new paper from CTC Technology & Energy that estimates the cost to connect all remaining anchors to fiber.  SHLB will also outline its strategy to connect rural America with a mix of fiber, fixed wireless, and TV WhiteSpace (TVWS), and present specific policy recommendations for the Trump Administration and Congress. The call will feature prominent voices representing anchor institutions as well as wireless advocates and commercial providers.

Speakers will include:

  • John Windhausen, Jr., Executive Director, SHLB Coalition
  • Joanne Hovis, President, and Andrew Afflerbach, CEO & Director of Engineering, CTC Technology
  • Jim Hermes, Associate Vice President, Government Relations, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)
  • Melissa Slawson, General Counsel and Vice President of Government Affairs and Education, GeoLinks
  • Don Means, Executive Director, Gigabit Libraries Network (GLN)
  • Richard Cullen, Executive Director, Connect Americans Now

WHO: SHLB’s Broadband Industry Experts and Anchors

WHAT: Press Call to review New Cost Estimate and Rural Broadband Strategy

WHEN: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET

WHERE: Phone Line Number: (202) 847-5889 (No PIN Required)

Register for the press call to receive an advance copy of the press release, cost estimate report, and rural broadband strategy.

 

###

 

About SHLB:

The SHLB Coalition is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-capacity broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, DC and has a diverse membership of commercial and non-commercial organizations that support our mission from across the United States.

Promoting Investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

In the Matter of

Promoting Investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band

GN Docket No. 17-258

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

 

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to comments filed on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order Terminating Petitions (“Notice and Order”) issued October 24, 2017.

I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

As noted in its opening comments, GeoLinks understands that the 3.5 GHz Band is gaining traction as “one of the core mid-range bands for 5G network deployments throughout the world” and acknowledges that any rules the Commission develops for this band will be primarily for 5G mobile wireless use.[1]  However, this band has propagation characteristics that make it optimal for other wireless technologies that can be deployed quickly to start closing the digital divide.

Sparsely populated rural areas are not well suited for traditional, wired broadband service given the cost to build and deliver a cable/ fiber-based network.  However, fixed wireless broadband technology can provide high-speed broadband to consumers in these areas for a fraction of the cost.  For this reason, it is imperative that spectrum resources be allocated in ways that allow fixed wireless ISPs to deploy services to these regions.

Chairman Pai has stated that the Commission “ha[s] no business picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”[2]  Therefore, the Commission must be careful to avoid creating spectrum policies that favor some technologies over others.  Currently, mobile wireless carriers have ample spectrum resources available to them.  However, smaller providers struggle to acquire even a fraction of what these large carriers already have.  For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to develop rules for the 3.5 GHz Band that support 5G deployment without closing off the band to other uses, such as fixed wireless service.

II. DISCUSSION

A. PAL Allocation Should be Done in a Way that Promotes Efficient Spectrum Use in Both Urban and Rural Areas

GeoLinks has consistently urged the Commission to consider the unique characteristics of rural vs. more populated urban areas when determining how those areas should be licensed to ensure the most efficient use of the spectrum.  To achieve this goal, GeoLinks makes the following suggestions with respect to PAL license areas and license terms.

As an initial matter, in reviewing comments filed in this docket and assessing the unique characteristics of the license areas that GeoLinks would seek to apply for, the Company believes that PALs at the county-level may strike a balance between PEAs and census tracts.  As Open Technology Institute at New America and Public Knowledge (“OTI & PK”) explains, many PEAs include both major metropolitan markets and rural areas, that may include hundreds of small towns.[3]  For example, PEA 2 in California has a population of nearly 20,000 while PEA 192 has a population of just over 300,000.[4]  In these situations, it makes little sense to treat all PEAs the same for the purposes of allocating spectrum licenses.

Meanwhile, GeoLinks agrees with commenters that census tracts are too small for general PAL assignments.[5]  In part, this is because wireless network areas are difficult to limit to census tract boundaries in urban areas (where census tracts are smaller than in rural areas).  Many times, depending on specific engineering, a fixed wireless transmitter will have the capability to extend a wireless broadband signal several miles, often covering numerous census tracts, especially in urban areas.  Assignment of PALs at the census tract level in urban areas could lead to carrier interference between PAL license areas and the need for expensive management processes to avoid such interference.  As NCTA points out, by reducing the total license areas from 74,000 census tracts to approximately 3,150 counties, the Commission would significantly simplify license management burdens and border coordination issues.[6]  GeoLinks is inclined to agree that county-sized licenses would also support rural deployment better than PEAs.[7]

Many commenters assert that counties are still too large and that awarding PAL licenses on a county-basis will stifle the ability for smaller carriers to obtain PALs in the 3.5 GHz band and will not promote deployment to rural areas.  GeoLinks believes that if PALs are awarded at the county level, subject to strict buildout requirements (as discussed in further detail below), and if the FCC establishes robust relinquishment, partition and/ or disaggregation rules, large carriers only looking to serve a small portion of a county will either seek out other spectrum resources or engage in secondary market agreements quickly within PAL areas.

While GeoLinks supports the idea of PALs being issued at the county-level, generally, the Company still recognizes that counties may not present a perfect option for all parts of the country and urges the Commission to consider the unique characteristics of rural vs. more populated areas when determining final license areas.  Just as PEAs differ in size and population, so do some counties.  Especially in California, counties can consist of large metropolitan areas and vast stretches of rural areas.  In these counties, GeoLinks supports the adoption of a hybrid approach but agrees with NCTA that “the Commission should carefully evaluate prospective solutions to ensure that they would meet the Commission’s substantive goals.”[8]

In addition to allocation by county (or hybrid approach in rural areas), GeoLinks supports a longer PAL license term.  As explained in its opening comments, the Company believes that longer terms will allow license holders time to better utilize the spectrum.  Specifically, the expectation of extended use of a specific band of spectrum creates certainty that will allow PAL holders to work with equipment manufacturers to develop and produce new equipment at lower costs.  These lower costs will, in turn, allow license holders to invest more resources into their networks to promote higher speeds, additional roll out, etc.  Shorter license periods, however, will have the opposite effect.  As AT&T points out, the current three-year license term (paired with no right of renewal), creates the risk that PAL licensees will face stranded investments.[9]  As T-Mobile notes, a ten-year term “would afford each licensee sufficient time to design and acquire the necessary equipment and devices and to deploy facilities across the license area.”[10]

Rural Wireless Association (“RWA”) asserts that “lengthening the PAL license term to ten years will result in spectrum lying fallow in rural areas and further deprive small and rural providers of access to protected 3.5 GHz.”[11]  GeoLinks agrees that without the appropriate checks and balances, this could be a risk.  Specifically, GeoLinks agrees with NCTA that longer, renewable terms also require appropriate performance obligations.[12]  GeoLinks asserts that PAL licensees must be subject to strict build out and reporting requirements (as discussed in further detail below).  If a license holder fails to meet these robust buildout requirements, the remaining portion of the PAL area should be subject to relinquishment, partition and/ or disaggregation to allow another service operator the opportunity to utilize the PAL for the remainder of the PAL license term.  When the PAL license term expires, the secondary PAL license holder(s) should get the first right of renewal for the PAL areas held.

B. The Commission Should Ensure Adequate PAL Allocation Among Technology Types to Promote Competition

Section 309(j) of the Communications Act of 1934 directs the Commission to promote “the development and rapid deployment of new technologies, products, and services for the benefit of the public,” while “disseminating licenses among a wide variety of applicants” and “avoiding excessive concentration of licenses.”[13]  As Google explains, with the right rules, PAL spectrum can support both established wireless and new investors with novel business models.[14]  GeoLinks agrees that “opening PAL spectrum to a wider set of potential licensees advances greater overall intensity of use, supports additional economic activity, and avoids the hazards that follow when government auction rules artificially limit access to spectrum that otherwise would support many business models.”[15]

GeoLinks asserts that PALs should be assigned in a way that ensures a mixture of technologies are able to utilize the 3.5 GHz Band.  One way in which the Commission can ensure competition within the 3.5 GHz Band is by keeping its existing spectrum aggregation limit in place.  While AT&T urges the elimination of the 40 MHz spectrum aggregation limit,[16] GeoLinks maintains that allocating more than 40 MHz of spectrum to one PAL holder will essentially close off the band to any other provider that could use that spectrum to provide high-speed broadband service.[17]  Moreover, allocating more than 40 MHz to one PAL holder that is not positioned to utilize the band immediately (e.g. a mobile wireless carrier planning to utilize the band for future 5G services) could mean that the 3.5 GHz Band would not be utilized fully for an indefinite amount of time.  GeoLinks agrees with OTI & PK that package bids be limited to three or at most four of the PALs (30-40 MHz).[18]

C. The Commission Cannot Solely Rely on Secondary Markets to Avoid Spectrum Warehousing or Underutilization of Spectrum in the 3.5 GHz Band

AT&T asserts that “allowing for partitioning and disaggregation will alleviate concerns that licensing on a PEA basis will result in underutilized spectrum.”[19]  However, as Google explains, “history confirms that the Commission’s partitioning and disaggregation rules, while sound, cannot be relied upon to promote access to spectrum for non-traditional or rural licensees. According to Commission records, the large wireless carriers who typically win mobile-ready spectrum in auctions only rarely engage in secondary market transactions with smaller entities, much less entities other than established telecommunications companies.”[20]

GeoLinks agrees with numerous commenters that the FCC cannot rely on the secondary marketplace alone if PALs are granted for larger geographic areas.[21]  However, GeoLinks believes that the secondary marketplace is a viable solution IF PALs are subject to strict build out and reporting requirements and the threat of forced relinquishment, partition and/ or disaggregation for failure to meet those requirements.

In developing policies surrounding allocation of PAL licenses in the 3.5 GHz band, GeoLinks urges the Commission to develop strict buildout and reporting requirements for PAL licensees.  As stated in its opening comments, the Company suggests that the Commission require license holders to provide status updates regarding their deployment/ network improvements within the 3.5 GHz Band by census block and reporting on a quarterly basis for the first year of the initial license period or renewal and annually thereafter.[22]

With respect to buildout metrics, GeoLinks strongly opposes T-Mobile’s proposal that the Commission adopt a performance requirement of coverage to only 40% of the population for licenses in the 3.5 GHz band.[23]   As OTI & PK notes, if build-out requirements are based on population, mobile carriers would satisfy them simply by building out almost solely in the high-density and/ or high-ARPU areas where the economic returns justify putting spectrum to work.[24]   GeoLinks asserts that the Commission must create buildout requirements that ensure the 3.5 GHz band is utilized in all areas of the PAL license areas, regardless of population density.  Failure to implement such requirements will only serve to ensure that large swaths of spectrum go unused; a concept that runs contrary to the Commission’s efforts to close the digital divide.

As stated in GeoLinks’ opening comments, minimum buildout requirements should be set high enough to ensure that unserved areas (if applicable) within the license area are not left behind.[25]  As such, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission implement buildout requirements based on locations within the PAL license area.

Moreover, the Commission should establish robust relinquishment, partition, and disaggregation processes for situations where buildout requirements are not met.  Similar to the RWA’s suggestion that unused PAL areas should be subject to a “keep-what-you-serve” standard at the time of renewal, GeoLinks suggests that this be taken a step further to ensure anything unserved within a reasonable time (i.e. one year from PAL assignment) can become available for reassignment by the Commission.[26]

GeoLinks believes that these buildout and reporting requirements, pair with a relinquishment, partition, and disaggregation process will ensure that large carriers either refrain from bidding on PAL areas in which they know they cannot or will not meet the build out requirements or ensure that these carriers seek out options for partitioning a portion of the PAL to another carrier expeditiously (before buildout requirements kick in).  However, in advocating for these safeguards, GeoLinks asserts that PAL holders should not be able to set the price or terms for transferring unused spectrum to an interested party.  GeoLinks firmly believes that if a PAL holder is not willing to utilize the 3.5 GHz Band throughout the entire license area or does not meet certain mandatory buildout requirements (such as those suggested above), the holder should not reap a benefit.

D. If the Commission Utilizes an Incentive Auction to Assign PAL Licenses in the 3.5 GHz Band, it Should Create a Process to Ensure All Types of Service Providers Can Participate

GeoLinks has previously advocated that incentive auctions should not be the preferred mechanism for determining how spectrum is licensed in all bands.[27]  This is because incentive auctions tend to only benefit large companies with large amounts of capital to spend and incentivize bidders to purchase spectrum resources as an asset for future use rather than for immediate use.  This process, while not necessarily designed to, picks “winners and losers” by creating a playing field that only a limited number of parties can participate in.  GeoLinks understands that the Commission will likely utilize the auction process to license PALs in the 3.5 GHz band.  In light of this, and to ensure that PAL licenses can be obtained by “both established wireless and new investors with novel business models,”[28] GeoLinks recommends that the Commission establish a set of bidding credits designed to put potential bidders on equal footing.  Some suggestions for bidding credits include the following.

i. Small Service Provider Bidding Credit

Many small and mid-sized service providers lack the large amounts of capital generally necessary to compete in spectrum incentive auctions leaving them behind and unable to compete with larger carriers in the same spectrum bands.  This disadvantages rural areas where many of these small and mid-sized carriers operate (and wish to invest in additional broadband deployment).  In order to put these smaller operators on equal footing with larger operators, GeoLinks suggests a generous bidding credit for carriers with fewer than 10,000 customers.[29]

ii. Rural Broadband Bidding Credit

GeoLinks believes that the 3.5 GHz band is well suited for a multitude of rural broadband services that will help in the Commission’s goal of closing the digital divide.  However, this will only occur if the policies surrounding allocation of the 3.5. GHz band PALs are crafted in a way that encourages such deployment.  This includes giving smaller service providers, that may focus their service offerings on rural areas, opportunities to obtain spectrum sufficient to offer high speed broadband to these areas – smaller providers that likely do not have the capital that the large mobile carriers do in order to afford such spectrum.  GeoLinks suggests that the Commission create a generous bidding credit for service providers that commit to serve rural areas within the PAL license area.  Specifically, GeoLinks suggests that those service providers that bid on rural areas, including areas containing CAF II Auction eligible areas, and commit to serving a certain number of locations within such area be given such a bidding credit.  The Company also suggests that such bidding credits be subject to ongoing reporting regarding rural service deployment over the 3.5 GHz band.

iii. Connect America Fund Phase II Awardee Bidding Credit

In its opening comments, GeoLinks proposed that Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF II”) awardees (or, depending on timing, CAF II applicants that pass the short form phase of the application process) that rely on spectrum resources be allowed “first crack” at a PAL covering applicable eligible areas.[30]  GeoLinks believes that this “first crack” could be in the form of a bidding credit applicable towards PALs in the 3.5 GHz Band.  As awardees will already be committing to serve 95% of rural locations within eligible CAF II areas, this credit could be paired with the rural bidding credit.

iv. Wholesale Bidding Credit

Another bidding credit GeoLinks suggests is a credit for those PAL holders that are willing to offer access to PAL spectrum on a wholesale basis to other service providers, either in the same areas as the PAL holder offers its services or in areas throughout the PAL license areas where the PAL holder cannot or does not wish to deploy services.

v. PAL Awardee Payment Options

In addition to the bidding credits set forth above, and any others the Commission may determine are in the public interest, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission implement a process by which smaller PAL recipients can pay for their spectrum licenses in installments over the length of the PAL period.  This will allow bidders with less upfront capitol to expend on spectrum (generally small and mid-sized carriers) to acquire and pay as the spectrum is utilized and services are deployed.  GeoLinks suggests that failure of a PAL recipient to make timely payments under such a payment option should result in relinquishment or forced relinquishment, partition and/ or disaggregation.  GeoLinks suggests that applicants who qualify for the “small Service Provider” bidding credit, for example, should qualify for extended payment.

III. CONCLUSION

In conclusion, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt rules with respect to spectrum licensing in the 3.5 GHz band that do not close off the band to fixed wireless service providers, ensure efficient use of the band, and promote broadband deployment and competition in both urban and rural areas.

 

Respectfully submitted,

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

January 29, 2018

[1] Notice and Order at para. 2.
[2] See Ajit Pai, Chairman, FCC Remarks on Restoring Internet Freedom (Nov. 28, 2017) (“We have no business picking winners and losers in the marketplace”).
[3] See Comments of Open Technology Institute at New America and Public Knowledge, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017), at 23 (“OTI & PK Comments”).
[4] Data based on 2010 Census data, available at https://www.fcc.gov/oet/maps/areas (last visited January 29, 2018).
[5] See generally Comments of AT&T Services, Inc., GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017) (“AT&T Comments”), Comments of United States Cellular Corporation, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017), Comments of Mobile Future, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017), Comments of T-Mobile USA, Inc., GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017) (“T-Mobile Comments”), etc.
[6] Comments of NCTA – the Internet & Television Association, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017), at 4 (“NCTA Comments”).
[7] Id. at 5
[8] Id. at 9.
[9] AT&T Comments at 3, citing Comments of Ericsson, GN Docket No. 12-354 (filed July 24, 2017), at 6.
[10] T-Mobile Comments at 4, citing the Notice and Order at para 13.
[11] Comments of the Rural Wireless Association, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017) at 7 (“RWA Comments”).
[12] See NCTA Comments at 13.
[13] 47 U.S.C. §309(j)(3).
[14] Comments of Google LLC, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017), at 2 (“Google Comments”).
[15] Id. at 3; see also NCTA Comments at 4, “NCTA continues to believe that the Commission should design its licensing rules in this innovation band to enable investment by a wide variety of market participants.”
[16] AT&T Comments at 7.
[17] See Comments of GeoLinks, GN Docket 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017) at 3 (“GeoLinks Comments”).
[18] See OTI & PK Comments at 6.
[19] AT&T Comments at 8
[20] Google Comments at 19.
[21] See e.g. Comments of the General Elective Company, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed Dec. 28, 2017), at 23 and OTI & PK Comments at 22.
[22] GeoLinks Comments at 4.
[23] T-Mobile Comments at 7.
[24] OTI & PK Comments at 20.
[25] GeoLinks Comments at 5.
[26] See RWA Comments at 10.
[27] Reply Comments of GeoLinks, GN Docket N. 17-183 (filed Nov. 15, 2017), at 3.
[28] Google Comments at 2.
[29] This suggestion goes beyond the bidding credits implemented in 600 MHz Band (Incentive Auction), See Updating Part 1 Competitive Bidding Rules et al., WT Docket No. 14-170 et al., Report and Order, 30 FCC Rcd 7493 (2017).  GeoLinks is open to other metrics for determining what is considered a “small service provider” but believes that the metric should be smaller than what was proposed for the 600 MHz Band or that the bidding credit should increase incrementally the fewer customers a service provider has.
[30] GeoLinks Comments at 7.

Promoting Investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band

Before the Federal Communications Commission Washington, DC 20554

In the Matter of Promoting Investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band Petition for Rulemaking Regarding the Citizens Broadband Radio Service

GN Docket No. 17-258 RM-11788 (Terminated) RM-11789 (Terminated

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order Terminating Petitions (“Notice and Order”) issued October 24, 2017.

I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks is proud to service the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider (“ISP”) in the state the California.  While the Company had previously focused on business and enterprise customers, in 2016 GeoLinks expanded its customer base to include nearly 30 rural school districts and surrounding communities throughout the state that previously had not had access to any high-speed broadband service.  As the Company expands, it strives to reach more unserved and underserved areas within California and beyond.  GeoLinks provides these comments to urge the Commission to adopt rules with respect to the 3550-3700 MHz Band (the “3.5 GHz Band”) that promote competition and adopt general spectrum practices that allow small and mid-sized ISPs to deliver competitive high-speed broadband services to help close the digital divide.

As GeoLinks has explained before, millions of Americans lack what is, by today’s standards, considered high-speed broadband access – especially in rural areas. Sparsely populated rural areas are not well suited for traditional, wired broadband service given the cost to build and deliver a cable/ fiber-based network.  However, fixed wireless broadband technology can provide high-speed broadband to consumers in these areas for a fraction of the cost.  For this reason, it is imperative that spectrum resources be allocated in ways that allow fixed wireless ISPs to deploy services to these regions.

GeoLinks understands that the 3.5 GHz Band is gaining traction as “one of the core mid-range bands for 5G network deployments throughout the world” and acknowledges that any rules the Commission develops for this band will be primarily for 5G mobile wireless use.[1]  However, this band is also well suited for other wireless technologies that can be deployed quickly to start closing the digital divide.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to develop rules for this band that support 5G deployment without closing off the 3.5 GHz Band to other uses, such as fixed wireless service.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Licenses Should Be Granted in a Manner that Promotes Competition

In its comments on the Public Notice issued June 22, 2017, GeoLinks supported a longer PAL license term.[2]  The Company believes that longer terms will allow license holders time to better utilize the spectrum.  Specifically, the expectation of extended use of a specific band of spectrum creates certainty that will allow license holders to work with equipment manufacturers to develop and produce new equipment at lower costs.  These lower costs will, in turn, allow license holders to invest more resources into their networks to promote higher speeds, additional roll out, etc.  However, in supporting these longer license terms, GeoLinks urged the Commission to ensure that any licenses granted in the 3.5 GHz Band are allocated in ways that allow for robust competition.[3]  Specifically, spectrum resources should not be available to only those companies with large amounts of capital or those who would purchase it as an asset with no intention of utilizing it to its full potential.

To ensure such competition can flourish within the 3.5 GHz Band and that it can be used as a tool to help close the digital divide, GeoLinks suggests the following approaches:

i. The Commission Should Ensure Adequate PAL Allocation to Promote Competition

The Commission should consider the role various technologies may play with the 3.5 GHz Band and ensure PALs are allocated in ways that promote competition.  Fixed wireless ISPs can offer a competitive choice to traditional, wired broadband service providers for a fraction of the cost.  These technologies can be rolled out quickly and are the most cost-effective way to connect unserved consumers throughout the country.  Allocating PALs within the 3.5 GHz Band in a way that allows these technologies to compete will help ensure the Commission’s stated goal of promoting competition.

One way in which the Commission can ensure competition within the 3.5 GHz Band is by keeping its existing spectrum aggregation limit in place.  In the Notice and Order, the Commission asks whether it should modify or remove its current 40 MHz spectrum aggregation limit.[4]  GeoLinks asserts that allocating more than 40 MHz of spectrum to one PAL holder will essentially close off the band to any other provider that could use that spectrum to provide high-speed broadband service.  Moreover, allocating more than 40 MHz to one PAL holder that is not positioned to utilize the band immediately (e.g. a mobile wireless carrier planning to utilize the band for future 5G services) could mean that the 3.5 GHz Band would not be utilized fully for an indefinite amount of time.  The Commission should reject any rule changes that could promote inefficient use of spectrum or spectrum warehousing.  Along this vein, the Commission should also create rules to ensure that an entity cannot circumvent this aggregation limit by acquiring another PAL license holder.  In the case of an acquisition, the remaining PAL holder should be required to relinquish any spectrum in excess of 40 MHz in the band within the specific geographic license area.

In addition, PALs should be distributed in a way that ensures a mixture of technologies are able to utilize the 3.5 GHz Band.  Specifically, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission create a licensing scheme that distributes PALs amongst technology types as equally as possible.  For example, if mobile wireless service providers and fixed wireless ISPs apply for PALs within the same geographic area, the Commission should ensure that both types of technologies are able to obtain PALs in that area.  In other words, the Commission should not let one technology type dominate the entire band within a geographic area.  This will help ensure that the specific characteristics of the 3.5 GHz Band are utilized in more efficient and technology neutral manner.

ii. The Commission Should Require PAL Holders to Meet Rigorous Performance Requirements Focused on the Deployment of High-Speed Broadband to Unserved Areas

In the Notice and Order, the Commission asks whether “if we adopt longer term, renewable PALs, it would serve the public interest to adopt certain performance requirements to ensure that the spectrum is put to its best use in an efficient and effective manner.”[5]  As an initial matter, GeoLinks believes that any spectrum license should carry with it the requirement to serve the public interest.  Spectrum is, first and foremost, a public resource and should be allocated accordingly.  GeoLinks asserts that PALs should be awarded in a way that promotes the Commission’s interests in closing the digital divide.

GeoLinks proposes that the Commission implement a requirement to provide broadband service over the 3.5 GHz Band to some minimum portion of the geographic license area within a reasonable time frame (regardless of how large or small the license area may be).  Specifically, GeoLinks recommends that this minimum be set high enough to ensure that unserved areas (if applicable) within the license area are not left behind.  In addition, if a PAL is renewed, it should carry a new set of buildout or network improvement requirements to ensure PAL holders do not sit on spectrum licenses without fully utilizing them.

GeoLinks urges the Commission to require license holders to provide status updates regarding their deployment/ network improvements within the 3.5 GHz Band by census block.  Reporting should be required on a quarterly basis for the first year of the initial license period or renewal and annually thereafter.  In addition, the Commission should develop rules to require relinquishment, partition, or disaggregation of the PAL if deployment requirements are not met (as discussed in more detail below). These requirements will alleviate the risk of spectrum warehousing within any given license area and encourage rapid deployment of high-speed broadband by license holders.

iii. If PAL Holders are Unable or Unwilling to Fully Utilize a PAL, the Commission Should Create Rules to Allow (or Require) that Excess Spectrum to be Partitioned and Disaggregated

As noted above, spectrum is a public resource and it should be managed in a way that more effectively and efficiently serves the public need.  Regardless of what license area the Commission may adopt, the Commission must implement rules for PAL holders that prohibit spectrum warehousing.

GeoLinks believes that it will be inevitable that some PAL holders may be unable or unwilling to expand their services over the 3.5 GHz Band throughout an entire license area.  Without rules to allow (or require) relinquishment, partition and/ or disaggregation of the remaining license area, PAL holders could merely sit on the unused spectrum.  The likely result would be that urban areas within a license area would receive the benefit of services offered over the Band while rural areas would be left behind and spectrum that could otherwise be used for broadband deployment would be left unused.  To avoid this potential problem, the Commission should create rules that would allow other interested parties to acquire the unused portion of the PAL license areas.

In making this recommendation, GeoLinks does not advocate that PAL holders should be able to set the price or terms for transferring unused spectrum to an interested party.  GeoLinks firmly believes that if a PAL holder is not willing to utilize the 3.5 GHz Band throughout the entire license area or does not meet certain mandatory buildout requirements (such as those suggested above), the holder should not reap a benefit.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to create rules that discourage spectrum warehousing by ensuring that PAL holders do not obtain a windfall for poor spectrum management and allowing other interested parties to obtain unused spectrum resources.

B. Geographic Areas Should Be Determined in a Manner that Promotes Competition and Accounts for Regional Broadband Needs

In its comments on the Public Notice, GeoLinks did not oppose the use of PEAs in licensing PALs but urged the Commission to consider the unique characteristics of rural vs. more populated areas when determining how those areas should be licensed.  Specifically, GeoLinks suggested that the Commission consider whether rural areas would benefit more from using smaller geographic areas (such as by census tract or county) vs. PEA if it would ensure more timely broadband access to rural communities.

PEAs differ in size as well as in urban vs. rural make up.  For example, PEA 2 in Southern California,[6] encompasses very populous areas like Los Angeles and Orange Counties as well as large rural areas that are currently deemed “unserved” by high-speed broadband such as San Bernardino and Kern Counties.[7]  Conversely, PEA 192 is only comprised of Cumberland County, NC, which encompasses Fayetteville.  These PEAs are undoubtedly very different and a licensing scheme appropriate for one would not necessary be appropriate for the other.

GeoLinks recommends that the Commission develop PAL licensing rules that account for the differences between areas like PEA 2 vs. PEA 192.  Logic dictates that areas such as PEA 2 should be divvyed up in a way that would account for differences between the different regions and sub-regions within it.  Because census areas are widely used and understood, division by census area (tract or even block group) would likely be easier to implement that some other metric.  However, the Company urges the Commission to use its expertise in assessing broadband deployment and population centers to develop a licensing scheme that is in the best interests of the specific area that license falls within.

Regardless of what geographic area(s) the Commission adopts for PALs within the 3.5 GHz Band, as discussed above, GeoLinks urges the Commission to develop and enforce strict buildout/ service requirements and develop robust relinquishment, partition and/ or disaggregation rules to ensure that license holders utilize the spectrum within the entire license area held.  This will help ensure that rural, sparsely populated areas that may not be attractive to some license holders are not left with no way to benefit from this band.

C. Connect America Fund Phase II Recipients Should Get Priority Access to PALs within Auction Award Areas

As GeoLinks has previously expressed to the Commission, the Company believes that the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction (“Phase II Auction”) presents an opportunity for the Commission to develop spectrum licensing policies specifically focused on unserved and rural areas.  Specifically, GeoLinks urged the Commission to allow Phase II Auction awardees the opportunity to obtain priority access to spectrum resources with which to serve eligible areas.  GeoLinks believes that this priority access could be considered in developing rules for the 3.5 GHz Band.

GeoLinks proposes that Phase II awardees (or, depending on timing, Phase II applicants that pass the short form phase of the application process) that rely on spectrum resources be allowed “first crack” at a PAL covering applicable eligible areas.  The 3.5 GHz Band offers a broadcast range that would allow fixed wireless ISPs such as GeoLinks the ability to provide high-speed broadband service across large rural areas with minimal tower construction.  Therefore, GeoLinks asserts that access to spectrum resources in this band (especially resources sufficient enough allow point-to-multipoint (“P2MP”) services) would ensure the speed tiers that the Commission seeks from Phase II applicants could be met at a fraction of the cost of traditional wired networks.  GeoLinks suggests that the Commission develop licensing rules for the 3.5 GHz Band that will maximize the benefit of the Phase II auction.

D. If the 3.5 GHz Band Will be Allocated Primarily for 5G Services, the Commission Should Allocate Other Spectrum Bands for Fixed Wireless Services

As stated above, GeoLinks asserts that the Commission should make the 3.5 GHz Band available to different technology types on an equal basis.  Doing so would allow consumers to benefit from different service offerings and ensure competition opportunities.  However, as noted, GeoLinks understands that the 3.5 GHz Band will be primarily be allocated for 5G mobile wireless use.  If that is the case, the Company urges the Commission to allocate other bands primarily for fixed wireless technology uses and implement rules similar to those proposed herein to ensure that spectrum is fully utilized.

As an initial matter, mobile wireless carriers have more spectrum than they need to meet current service requirements and 5G technology is still years from being fully developed and deployed.  It makes little sense to allocate most, if not all, of 3.5 GHz Band plus other mid-band spectrum plus the spectrum that wireless carriers already control to a technology that is still being developed and won’t be ready for deployment for an indefinite amount of time.  Instead, the Commission should develop spectrum allocation policies that allow for immediate deployment of high-speed broadband services, specifically in rural areas. These policies are imperative to closing the digital divide.

In the recent Restoring Internet Freedom Order, the Commission determined that “network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers.”[8]  To reach this goal and spur this network investment, the Commission must create avenues by which competition can flourish and alternative providers can enter the market.  With respect to wireless technologies, this can be accomplished by making additional spectrum resources available.  Access to dedicated spectrum will allow fixed wireless ISPs to utilize clean spectrum connections to deliver robust, high-speed service.  Specifically, access to dedicated licenses for P2MP connections will allow for high-speed broadband connections to numerous locations from a single transmission point, resulting in additional bandwidth and deployment opportunities at a fraction of the cost of traditional, wired broadband services.  GeoLinks believes there are numerous bands well suited for P2MP technologies (in addition to the 3.5 GHz Band), including 3.7-4.2 GHz, 5.925-6.425 GHz, 10-11 GHz, and 23-24 GHz.[9]  The Company encourages the Commission to continue its work to develop new spectrum allocation policies and, in doing so, urges the Commission to ensure these policies create the competitive opportunities that will promote network investment.

/

/

/

/

/

/

/

III. CONCLUSION

In conclusion, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt rules with respect to spectrum licensing in the 3.5 GHz band that do not close off the band to fixed wireless service providers, ensure efficient use of the band, prohibit spectrum warehousing, and promote broadband deployment and competition.

Respectfully submitted,

GEOLINKS, LLC

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

December 28, 2017

 

 

[1] Notice and Order at para. 2.

[2] See Comments of California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks, GN Docket No. 12-354 (filed August 8, 2017), at 2

[3] Id.

[4] Notice and Order at para 27.

[5] Notice and Order at para 17.

[6] PEA 2 is comprised of Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardina, San Luis Obispo Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties.

[7] See http://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/ (last visited on December 22, 2017).

[8] Public Notice, “FCC Acts to Restore Internet Freedom; Reverses Title II Framework, Increases Transparency to Protect Consumers, Spur Investment, Innovation, and Competition,” WC Docket No. 17-108 (rel. Dec 14, 2017).

[9] In developing new spectrum policies, GeoLinks urges the Commission to undertake rulemakings to develop rules to allow for P2MP services in the 11 and 23 GHz bands (which are currently only for point-to-point services).  GeoLinks asserts that any new rules developed for any band should include the rigorous reporting and buildout requirements discussed herein and should set forth a process for relinquishment of any unused spectrum.