On July 9, 2020, Next Century Cities joined Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute and other allied organizations to send a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) urging the agency to open a rulemaking proceeding to revise the service rules governing the use of spectrum between 12.2 and 12.7 GHz (the “12 GHz Band”). Adding the 12 GHz band to the Commission’s 5G FAST Plan will make an additional 500 megahertz of contiguous spectrum available for two-way fixed and mobile 5G wireless broadband services. 

Increasing available spectrum in the 12 GHz band in the mobile and satellite broadband markets will help promote competition and attract new entrants in mobile markets. In particular, the letter illuminates the impact on the competitive landscape in rural, tribal, and underserved areas. As the Commission makes more spectrum available, it should seek to adopt a similar “use it or share it” access strategy employed in the successful 5.9 GHz spectrum deployment. This will help expand affordable broadband service in these affected areas where there is limited economic incentive for large national carriers to offer service. Additionally, the letter asks the Commission to seek comment on the possibility of a low-power or very low power unlicensed underlay. This would ensure that even if spectrum sharing at a higher power is too difficult on a non-interfering abscess at this time, the band will still be able to be put to use in the creation of high-bandwidth channels capable of supporting Wi-Fi 6. 

Currently, the 12GHz spectrum band is severely underutilized. Use of this band could have wide-ranging impacts across the nation to advance 5G services, promote competition, and help address the digital divide. The Commission should seize this opportunity to continue its drive to increase spectrum and connect those communities that have historically struggled to get online. Read the letter here.