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FCC Undoing Rules That Make It Easier For Small ISPs To Compete With Big Telecom (vice.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Federal Communications Commission is currently considering a rule change that would alter how it doles out licenses for wireless spectrum. These changes would make it easier and more affordable for Big Telecom to scoop up licenses, while making it almost impossible for small, local wireless ISPs to compete. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum is the rather earnest name for a chunk of spectrum that the federal government licenses out to businesses. It covers 3550-3700 MHz, which is considered a "midband" spectrum. It can get complicated, but it helps to think of it how radio channels work: There are specific channels that can be used to broadcast, and companies buy the license to broadcast over that particular channel. The FCC will be auctioning off licenses for the CBRS, and many local wireless ISPs -- internet service providers that use wireless signal, rather than cables, to connect customers to the internet -- have been hoping to buy licenses to make it easier to reach their most remote customers.

The CBRS spectrum was designed for Navy radar, and when it was opened up for auction, the traditional model favored Big Telecom cell phone service providers. That's because the spectrum would be auctioned off in pieces that were too big for smaller companies to afford -- and covered more area than they needed to serve their customers. But in 2015, under the Obama administration, the FCC changed the rules for how the CBRS spectrum would be divvied up, allowing companies to bid on the spectrum for a much smaller area of land. Just as these changes were being finalized this past fall, Trump's FCC proposed going back to the old method. This would work out well for Big Telecom, which would want larger swaths of coverage anyway, and would have the added bonus of being able to price out smaller competitors (because the larger areas of coverage will inherently cost more.)
As for why the FCC is even considering this? You can blame T-Mobile. "According to the agency's proposal, because T-Mobile and CTIA, a trade group that represents all major cellphone providers, 'ask[ed] the Commission to reexamine several of the [...] licensing rules,'" reports Motherboard. The proposal reads: "Licensing on a census tract-basis -- which could result in over 500,000 [licenses] -- will be challenging for Administrators, the Commission, and licensees to manage, and will create unnecessary interference risks due to the large number of border areas that will need to be managed and maintained."

FCC Undoing Rules That Make It Easier For Small ISPs To Compete With Big Telecom

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  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @08:50PM (#55912361) Journal
    No driving from city to city and changing to smaller more expensive networks.
    No fees to access another small network in the USA simply for enjoying the freedom to move around the USA.
    Stay with your existing plan all over the USA as your brand will finally be able to get access to all of the USA.
    No more very local monopolies that gathered up all the local spectrum keeping out other brands from all over the USA.
    Enjoy your bands support, pricing and quality of service all over the USA. No more unexpected payments demanded from local monopolies to connect in their state, city.
    Wireless spectrum was to allow innovative communications services all over the USA. Not to be small local monopolies that demand connection payments as they got granted the ability to be the only network in that part of the USA.

    Enjoy the freedom to travel all over the USA with your own trusted telco plan. No more strange costs just for making a call in California or New Jersey because someone local got all the spectrum and kept it so they could get extra payments for people trying to make a call.
    Soon your trusted telco brand will be available all over the USA at the same easy to understand rates. Enjoy making calls and using data all over the USA without local monopolies adding their extra data costs.
    • by Plus1Entropy ( 4481723 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @09:05PM (#55912421)

      Add this to the list of comments you should recall in 10 years when these rules have totally fucked all the rural communities out of any chance of getting affordable broadband:

      55890525 [slashdot.org]
      55890785 [slashdot.org]

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        Re "rural communities out of any chance of getting affordable broadband"...
        Hows that paper insulated wireline working out? Enjoying the local monopolies quality networks?
        That one wireless provider who has an owner who enjoys a lifestyle build on selling locals expensive data plans?
        With competition and access locals can enjoy all kinds of new and innovative services. From a larger national telco finally able to enter that part of the USA to new services and networks entering the area locally.
        Freedom of
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It doesn't really matter. It's either a local monopoly owned locally or a national network that has a local monopoly in your area. Or maybe a duopoly. In either case, it doesn't matter because all the major carriers collude on pricing..

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        A few great comments to reflect on per week for 10 years?
        Thats going to need a fansite )))
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Add this to the list of comments you should recall in 10 years when these rules have totally fucked all the rural communities out of any chance of getting affordable broadband:

        Good. It's time to drain the swamp of fly-over america. They're the real disease of this country.

    • by SumDog ( 466607 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @09:19PM (#55912477) Homepage Journal

      There is already plenty if spectrum for that. The big providers have already purchased up national LTE coverage, GSM/CDMA coverage, Wi-Max coverage and even fall-backs to EDGE coverage.

      This is new spectrum space, which could be using by small municipalities to offer local wireless Internet coverage. They're most likely going to have to offer such coverage with better deals than the major carriers, with the trade-off being limited range.

      • by UPZ ( 947916 )

        There is already plenty if spectrum for that. The big providers have already purchased up national LTE coverage, GSM/CDMA coverage, Wi-Max coverage and even fall-backs to EDGE coverage.

        This is new spectrum space, which could be using by small municipalities to offer local wireless Internet coverage. They're most likely going to have to offer such coverage with better deals than the major carriers, with the trade-off being limited range.

        Exactly. There's plenty of spectrum that is already available for nationwide deployment. This small chunk was for smaller local businesses to compete, and now it looks like the big corporations will steal it away from the little guy.

    • I don't pay any fees to access any roaming in any area of the US, and yes, I have an all you can eat $50/mo plan. I have an existing T-Mobile plan that does this.

      But hark, I have no phones (and THERE ARE NO PHONES) that currently support the 3.5GHz band. Nada.

      So there is no freedom because there are no phones and there are no romaing charges. When the mis-named 5G starts arriving, it also won't make any difference, either, for the reasons above. It's a boondoggle to sell more licensed spectrum to the big gu

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Your contract withT-Mobile allows them to cancel the contract if you spend too much time roaming. They're not willing to lose money to customers who live in rural over-priced monoply zones. They're happy to swap roaming with ATT and Verizon, as they have reasonable roaming agreements. However, many of the rural telcos charge obscene roaming fees and consequently have a monopoly in their small towns.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Freedom to travel and be spied upon where ever you go 24/7, oh wait, small ISPs no spying, KILL ALL SMALL ISPs, the corporations must be able to spy on you, including and especially in your home, 24/7, and even when you travel. Moving all of the time, well, welcome to the totally disposable workforce, welcome to the new 'gig' workspace that includes you having to relocate regularly.

      Seriously, what a crock, yep, need to move my ISP regularly, wait what, maybe a few times in your life you relocate your home.

    • by eriks ( 31863 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @11:45PM (#55912977) Homepage

      I'm no expert, but It seems to me that access to specific spectrum by cell providers is not the issue with mobile connectivity. It's not like you can't manufacture a radio that can't transmit on more than one band. It's that the various players have never had an incentive to share/pool or at least wholesale resources to each other. This is clearly in the "Regulate-able" zone, since this is *our* spectrum we're talking about. A resource that we can all benefit from, and that we literally *have* to share it in order to use it effectively.

      I live in a rural area, there is a cell tower 1/2 mile from my house, but I don't have signal, because the tower doesn't talk to my "brand" of phone. I don't even know what the specifics are, and I could switch providers, but this particular provider has no signal in other areas where I often go, whereas the one that doesn't work at my house works most other places that I go.

      If there had been a regulation 20 years ago that said "Hey, let's find a common industry solution so that all phones can talk to all towers, and then let the owners of those towers worry about billing each other" we wouldn't have the mess we have now with competing standards and antagonistic competitive business. I sometimes even end up places where I have *signal* but the tower tells me (essentially) that while I can talk to you, I won't let you use me, since your provider doesn't have a billing arrangement with me in this area. I realize these things are complicated, and I'm perhaps oversimplifying, but they've been made more complicated than they need to be.

      It's like "Hey! you can't drive on this road! You have a Ford! Only Chevys can drive on this road!" That's insane, right? But we put up with it with mobile communications, because... why, exactly? I realize this isn't an issue in metro areas (they have issues too, just different ones) but if the system were managed and engineered properly we wouldn't have this type of issue at all.

      Letting the incumbent competing players have even MORE power and control is probably not going to solve this problem. This is one of those issues that's going to have to play out over a long time now, since the window for regulating a unified system probably closed long ago.

    • No driving from city to city and changing to smaller more expensive networks. No fees to access another small network in the USA simply for enjoying the freedom to move around the USA. Stay with your existing plan all over the USA as your brand will finally be able to get access to all of the USA. No more very local monopolies that gathered up all the local spectrum keeping out other brands from all over the USA. Enjoy your bands support, pricing and quality of service all over the USA. No more unexpected payments demanded from local monopolies to connect in their state, city. Wireless spectrum was to allow innovative communications services all over the USA. Not to be small local monopolies that demand connection payments as they got granted the ability to be the only network in that part of the USA.

      How do you expect CBRS licenses will change this situation? The CBRS plan from 2015 until late 2017 was to have census-tract-sized licenses, covering a smaller area than has been licensed before. The TMO/CTIA proposal is to use PEA (Partial Economic Area)-sized licenses, which cover metro areas or large swaths of rural areas. This would make the license area similar to existing cellular licenses, far from "nationwide" like you are saying.

      Enjoy the freedom to travel all over the USA with your own trusted telco plan. No more strange costs just for making a call in California or New Jersey because someone local got all the spectrum and kept it so they could get extra payments for people trying to make a call.

      CBRS is an acronym for Citizens Broadband Radio Service. "Telco", "cal

      • And if he's "trust telco provider" is Verizon I'm not even sure that's true. The company has been rated "worst company in America" for 3 years running.

        People trust used car dealers more than they trust telcos for fucks sake ! And nobody trusts a used car dealer.

        Now whether people in general trust congress more or less (or just trust the other party's congresspeople more or less) I don't know - but an apples to apples comparison is really to compare telcos to other businesses - and there is no business les

    • These bands probably won't be used much for social network communications if acquired by smaller players. They may come up with more innovative uses, like sensor networks, municipal services, self driving car communications and other stuff we haven't thought up yet. The big telecoms won't do that.

    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      No driving from city to city and changing to smaller more expensive networks. No fees to access another small network in the USA simply for enjoying the freedom to move around the USA. Stay with your existing plan all over the USA as your brand will finally be able to get access to all of the USA. No more very local monopolies that gathered up all the local spectrum keeping out other brands from all over the USA. Enjoy your bands support, pricing and quality of service all over the USA. No more unexpected payments demanded from local monopolies to connect in their state, city. Wireless spectrum was to allow innovative communications services all over the USA. Not to be small local monopolies that demand connection payments as they got granted the ability to be the only network in that part of the USA. Enjoy the freedom to travel all over the USA with your own trusted telco plan. No more strange costs just for making a call in California or New Jersey because someone local got all the spectrum and kept it so they could get extra payments for people trying to make a call. Soon your trusted telco brand will be available all over the USA at the same easy to understand rates. Enjoy making calls and using data all over the USA without local monopolies adding their extra data costs.

      Surely there is enough spectrum to have it both ways? The big national telcos have enough spectrum to offer more speed than anyone needs in a portable device. US LTE speeds aren't the fastest in the world, but they are plenty fast when you have a good signal. You can easily watch 1080P video with a good LTE signal, and speeds are almost high enough for 4K.

      The 3550-3700 MHz band is high enough in frequency that signals do not propagate through structures or walls well. That's a big problem for portable

    • No driving from city to city and changing to smaller more expensive networks.

      What are you talking about? This is a problem happily solved on the device end which needs to be able to work across a wide variety of suppliers regardless of who buys the spectrum.

      My phone not only works in the USA, but works in the rest of the world as well without any concerns. Fees and rates are an economic construct nothing more.

      • I take it you don't spend much time in rural America? The number of times you get a "I can see a tower but can only use it for 911 because your Telco and the tower owner don't have a roaming agreement" is fairly high and highly infuriating, and that's with large license blocks, with lots of podunk ISPs it would be worse because they would try to extract as much as possible from their license and so would jack fees to the point where the Nationals would just block them.

        • You're still describing an economic construct which would most definitely NOT be helped by handing the major monopolies more power to keep screwing you.

    • European here. No roaming cost inside Europe. So not unpossible. For now there are still costs for calling to another counyry, otherwise I would have taken a numberfrom somewhere else where it is cheaper.

    • Nothing about the current system denies the public from the freedom of movement that you are talking about. The argument that the Telecom industry has against the current model is not that they can not get the coverage that they need. The argument is that they will have too many licenses to track. This is an interesting argument because TMobile currently has around 70,000,000 customers. They have no trouble tracking THAT information. But it is too much work for them to track a measly half a million license
  • by no-body ( 127863 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @08:57PM (#55912385)

    Falls all under the category of "more is never enough", "you can fool a lot of people this is good for them and succeed", "you owe the one's helping you out to do what is good for them"

    Also called late capitalism or bribery solidly implemented corrupting a lot of minds...

    It's happening for a while - 10/20/50 years or more and developing....

  • T-Mobile asks the FCC to re-examine the proposal because it "will be challenging for Administrators, the Commission, and licensees to manage". In other words, hey guys, do you realize how much fucking work this is going to be for you? Are you sure you don't want to see it our way?
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      T-Mobile asks the FCC to re-examine the proposal because it "will be challenging for Administrators, the Commission, and licensees to manage". In other words, hey guys, do you realize how much fucking work this is going to be for you? Are you sure you don't want to see it our way?

      The argument that it will be challenging to manage probably tickles a bureaucrats toes: huge head-count, complicated reporting structure, impossible to audit for efficiency... That is the kind of mission that calls for truckloads of mid-level managers (A-4,B-5,C-3) which means there are empires to build...

      A long time ago, my sister worked for the BLM. She had horror stories on how mining leases are handled by the federal government. They hired so many people at the BLM to oversee the leases that many empl

    • Sounds more like T-Mobile told the FCC: “We don’t want this, please make sure it doesn’t happen, and oh: here’s a handy dandy argument that will help your bosses sell this to the public”.
  • by glitch! ( 57276 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @09:06PM (#55912433)

    The title says that licensing new spectrum (with a bias to "Big Telecom") will make it harder for small ISPs to compete.

    First, how would "small ISPs" actually use the newly licensed spectrum if they did get authorization? Would they buy the new access points that magically appear to use this spectrum? Are the big equipment producers in WIFI even interested in licensed spectrum? I think these are material questions.

    My conclusion is that this is just another spectrum lottery, and the end result is noone is harmed and very few benefit.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      A tower on a central building with a link to a national network that connects a few other towers in an area.
      The very private sector network version of a small power utility cooperative for a small area.
      They have the local spectrum and if the locals pay they can enjoy the list of prices set.
      If they don't pay its back to a paper insulated wireline network.
      Great for the owners of the only local wireless "internet" company.
      Once national and state wide networks are allowed in with real price competition th
      • They have the local spectrum and if the locals pay they can enjoy the list of prices set. If they don't pay its back to a paper insulated wireline network. Great for the owners of the only local wireless "internet" company.

        Who has the local spectrum? From the FCC's plan: "Up to seven total PALs may be assigned in any given census tract with up to four PALs going to any single applicant." At the very least this will allow a duopoly, with up to seven licensed competitors in an area. Regardless of the license size, big or small, there is nothing preventing a large carrier from bidding on a license!

        Once national and state wide networks are allowed in with real price competition that generational wealth is open to competition.

        "National and state wide networks" are allowed to bid against any local user. The difference is the area the license covers. Census t

      • It's not accurate to call this a "relaxing of federal rules" - if anything it's a retightening of federal rules that were recently relaxed !

    • First, how would "small ISPs" actually use the newly licensed spectrum if they did get authorization? Would they buy the new access points that magically appear to use this spectrum? Are the big equipment producers in WIFI even interested in licensed spectrum? I think these are material questions.

      My conclusion is that this is just another spectrum lottery, and the end result is noone is harmed and very few benefit.

      3.65Ghz LTE (not Wifi) equipment is available today from Airspan, Baicells, Telrad, and probably other manufacturers. Equipment has been available for a while for use under older licensing rules, with the intent to keep using the same equipment when 3.65Ghz gets repurposed under newer CBRS licensing rules, replacing the older licensed usage. The working plan since 2015, supported by Google, Microsoft, and other developers of SAS (Spectrum Access System, the centralized control system that prevents various l

  • by lucm ( 889690 )

    I can't wait for all those companies to merge and become the Omni Consumer Products corporation. Only then will we enjoy all the great products and services we deserve.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @09:13PM (#55912453)

    This has every to do with the head of the FCC being a former manager at Verizon and using the FCC to gain future employment. He had the nerve to argue that the NN regulations hurt small business when in fact they did the exact opposite. He's in this to make his next job a high power executive position at one of the major telecoms. He doesn't care about any small business or any consumer, all he cares about is empowering the large teleco's to wipe out competition and be able to toll the connections of their customers to extort money out of Internet businesses. That's it.

    Trump didn't drain the swamp, he pumped an extra million gallons into it giving industry direct control over the government. Hell he proposed fuel requirements for power plants as a way to make all rate payer pay more to support coal which is no longer the cheapest source of power (that's wind, and solar is right behind wind with both cheaper than coal by a significant percentage) these days even with all the subsidies coal gets. Rolling back regulations that advantage small businesses would be the next step in corporate control over government and the head of the FCC that Trump put in position is just the man to do it.

    • being a former manager at Verizon

      Pai was no mere 'manager' at Verizon—he was Associate General Counsel. Before that, he was at the DoJ. So he has a history of switching back-and-forth between lucrative private-sector positions and federal government appointments. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    • Yup, and I just want to point out yet another negative story about a Republican action. Why does this site talk endlessly about Hilary's email, while R's do actual damage and nobody mentions the party? Can't find the word Republican or Pai in a search on this page.
    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      Trump didn't drain the swamp, he pumped an extra million gallons into it giving industry direct control over the government. Hell he proposed fuel requirements for power plants as a way to make all rate payer pay more to support coal which is no longer the cheapest source of power (that's wind, and solar is right behind wind with both cheaper than coal by a significant percentage) these days even with all the subsidies coal gets. Rolling back regulations that advantage small businesses would be the next step in corporate control over government and the head of the FCC that Trump put in position is just the man to do it.

      1. Wind and Solar get a lot of subsidies too.
      2. Natural gas is putting coal out of business, not renewables. Natural gas is dispatchable, Wind and Solar are "if it is available you can have it (or must take it)".
      3. Natural gas in the USA is currently cheaper than it has ever been. This may persist for years, perhaps decades. But what happens when gas prices return to what they were in the 1990s?
      4. Some parts of the US, particularly the northeast, have problems with natural gas supply when it gets very

      • These plants are unique in being able to keep a stockpile of fuel, regardless of weather conditions or competition for fuel. That's a capability that could really come in handy in case of a natural disaster or other calamity. That is why the regulations aimed to subsidize plants that can store 60 days of fuel onsite.

        If there's some kind of natural disaster that eliminates all sunshine and wind for 60 days, I'm thinking that we're all pretty screwed anyway.

      • That's a capability that could really come in handy in case of a natural disaster or other calamity. That is why the regulations aimed to subsidize plants that can store 60 days of fuel onsite.

        This statement, which seems to be the crux of your argument, is obviously disingenuous. The regulation was sought by a specific coal company and specifically tailored to that company and the regions it operates in. You appear to know enough about the situation that you must be aware of this. The sad fact is that the actions of the current administration are so indefensible that supporting these policies requires bold faced lies.

        Storing sixty days worth of fuel on-site in case of some mysterious "natural dis

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Trump didn't drain the swamp, he pumped an extra million gallons into it giving industry direct control over the government. Hell he proposed fuel requirements for power plants as a way to make all rate payer pay more to support coal which is no longer the cheapest source of power (that's wind, and solar is right behind wind with both cheaper than coal by a significant percentage) these days even with all the subsidies coal gets. Rolling back regulations that advantage small businesses would be the next ste

  • Remember things like this when congress people say "Small business is the backbone of America" ... then proceed to weaken their "backbone" every chance they get. Yes I realized the FCC is not congress, but the principle still applies.
  • More hysteria (Score:5, Informative)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @10:57PM (#55912829)
    First of all, this is a relatively small piece of spectrum. There is already wireless internet using other bands.

    Second, this has nothing to do with cell phones, so the comment about how someone's phone doesn't cover this band and there will be no phone that do is irrelevant.

    Third, it is under consideration, not a done deal. The headline is flamebait -- "FCC Undoing" is wrong. They might.

    And fourth, yes, licensing small areas creates a lot more work for everyone involved than licenses for large areas. It's called "coordination", and the work goes up exponentially with the number of parties that need to be coordinated. Someone has to make sure that the licensee for Backwater, IA doesn't interfere with the licensee for South Backwater, IA. That's harder than telling T-Mobile in IA not to interfere with AT&T in the next state over.

    All of that doesn't mean I support the change. It's just not that earth shattering to begin with.

    • Oh, I forgot this. Fifth, this has nothing to do with broadcasting, so the summary is patent nonsense. Nobody is going to be licensed to broadcast nothing in this band.
    • There should always be hysteria against all changes by a government department that give handouts to incumbents regardless of how big the handout is, or what it is for.

      This is a another point in a very shitty trend.

    • The SAS system handles coordination and is supposed to mitigate interference between users, and the SAS developers (Google, Microsoft, etc) are of the opinion that their SAS is capable of handling census-tract-sized license areas.
  • How's that competition working out for you?
  • Really, you're going to blame this on T-Mobile? The fact that they're even considering this is because the Republicans are bunch of scumbags who would actually consider things like this.
  • This is just one more battle that's being focused on myopically, while losing sight of the big picture.

    The whole problem boils down to a need to differentiate between the infrastructure and the services being provided via that infrastructure.

    What would make the most sense and be in the best national interest is to let Federal government control the infrastructure itself. Whether we're talking cellular towers or wireless spectrum allocations or plain old copper wire, coaxial or fiber - give Federal governmen

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