op-ed

The Feds Are Rigging The Game Against Rural Internet Users

cow Shutterstock/Sara Winter

Mitchell Gunter Freelance Writer
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Donald Trump’s core constituency, rural America, should be alarmed at a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change existing broadband rules — benefitting “Big Mobile” at the expense of rural consumers.

Rural voters should not be fooled by a new executive order coming from the White House titled “Presidential Executive Order on Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America that is being gutted by Trump’s own FCC with the support of the White House.

On one hand, the White House is professing to help rural Americans’ access to broadband while the White House controlled FCC is eviscerating that same promise of rural broadband by undoing a rule that currently is helping rural Americans get affordable broadband services.

In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report identifying a particular band of spectrum, the signals that power our internet, television, and radio, as being a candidate for sharing between companies of varying scales.

Sharing of the spectrum occurs when other entities may utilize a particular band when the primary user of the band is not, ensuring that none of the signals that power our nation go to waste.

Members of the FCC went on to unanimously pass an amendment to 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) rules in 2015 for the band mentioned in PCAST’s report, auctioning 10-megahertz pieces for a band dubbed, “Priority Access Licenses (PALs),” and setting up 74,000 smaller geographical licensing areas called “census tracts.”

Additionally, the FCC created three-year license terms. By auctioning off the spectrum in smaller pieces, setting up smaller licensing areas, and creating shorter license terms, the FCC effectively partitioned the wireless spectrum in ways to better serve rural areas.

Now, the FCC, Big Mobile and corrupt lobbyists have joined forces to push for a set of rules that will leave the wireless spectrum rife with waste, and neglect the very citizens who propelled the president into office.

In October of 2017, the FCC sought comment on proposed changes to the existing CBRS rules, and could vote on the changes as early as March. Changes desired by Big Mobile include creating larger census tracts, and extending license terms to 10 years.

Larger geographical census tracts swallowing rural areas would inevitably cause rural consumers headaches, as Big Mobile carriers prioritize profitable urban areas to the detriment of smaller, less populated rural areas. Smaller census tracts allow small businesses to cater to areas that Big Mobile routinely ignores.

Furthermore, establishing 10-year licensing terms would effectively create permanent licenses for parts of the spectrum, creating insurmountable barriers for small businesses, and deterring rural investment and innovation.

Needless to say, advocates for rural consumers were less than pleased with the proposed rule changes.

“Consumer advocates and rural broadband providers are concerned the FCC will rewrite the rules to make licenses affordable for only the largest mobile carriers and thereby deny spectrum access to thousands of other companies,” Michael Calabrese, the Director of the Wireless Future Project told FierceWireless.

“America’s future 5G ecosystem will be less robust and competitive if the FCC rigs the auction to benefit a single big carrier business model,” Calabrese concluded.

Large mobile companies want to utilize the FCC to conquer the wireless spectrum, and monopolize services through crony capitalism, representing the worst of “The Swamp.” Unfortunately, it appears as if the FCC is playing ball, and rigging the game in Big Mobile’s favor.

By keeping the existing CBRS rules, small businesses and entrepreneurs that cater to rural areas will be able to keep their business—and rural consumers will be able to keep their wireless coverage.

Rural voters are not going to be fooled by an empty executive order when this same Administration’s FCC are making it much harder for the rural voters who launched Donald Trump into the presidency to get access to affordable broadband access.

Mitchell Gunter is a freelance writer.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.