Today, the FCC voted to move forward with a proposal to open up communications spectrum beyond 95 GHz. In a statement, it said that spectrum above this range has been thought to be at the edge of what’s usable, but now it wants to provide different levels of authorization to use the spectrum to, as Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement, “promote innovation and help put this spectrum to its best use.” Pai noted that some might skeptical as to whether spectrum above 95 GHz can actually be used, but he added, “The point is that we must be open to new technologies that haven’t even been developed. And while we don’t know precisely how far the laws of physics will permit us to go, we do know there’s potential and interest. Engineers and entrepreneurs need to have the ability to push the envelope.”
— Mignon Clyburn (@MClyburnFCC) February 22, 2018
The FCC proposes 102.2 GHz of spectrum be available for licensed services, 15.2 GHz available for unlicensed devices and that a new type of experimental license be available for spectrum between 95 GHz and 3 THz. For the latter, the FCC says, “These licenses will give innovators more flexibility, compared to the existing experimental licensing rules, by including a longer license term and license transferability to encourage investment and allowing the sale of equipment during market trials.”
Additionally, the FCC voted to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would institute guidelines in accordance with Section 7 of the Communications Act, which requires the FCC to respond to new technology proposals in a timely manner. While Section 7 was passed in 1983, no clear rules have been set in regards to it. “So today, we’re proposing clear guidelines and procedures to implement Section 7,” Pai said in a statement. “Our goal is simple: to ensure that the FCC doesn’t stand as a gatekeeper between entrepreneurs who need our OK for new technologies and services and American consumers who can benefit from those innovations.” While the proposal to open up higher-range spectrum was supported by all FCC commissioners, Commissioner Clyburn dissented to this one in part and Commissioner Rosenworcel dissented in full.
Both Notices of Proposed Rulemaking will be up for public comment.