Mimosa 10 GHz Petition: Our Response to Comments

By Brian Hinman

As you may be aware, Mimosa petitioned the FCC to open the 10 GHz spectrum for lightly licensed use. The comment period for our petition closed on April 10, 2014, and following FCC rules, we submitted our response on Friday, April 25th, two weeks after the close of the comment period. Beyond this point, it’s up to the FCC to decide what action, if any, they will take to address our request to share the 10 GHz band for broadband applications. We think our case is strong, but only time will tell.

On behalf of everyone working at Mimosa, we extend our sincere thanks to the many individuals, industry associations, WISP operators and other technology providers who wrote comments in support of our petition. With 72 million adult Americans lacking Internet access at home, we sincerely believe that opening the 10 GHz band for broadband will make communications more affordable for people who have hesitated adding service because of budget concerns, and also make access available to many of the 14.5 million Americans living in rural areas with no service options other than satellite. As Lawrence Strickling, head of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, told an audience at the Brookings Institution recently, “Americans who don’t have access to the Internet are increasingly cut off from job opportunities, educational resources, health-care information, social networks, even government services.” With these stark realities in mind, it’s gratifying to see so many people embrace our proposal to open the 10 GHz band as a means to shrink the digital divide.

In addition to the greater public good accomplished by bringing Internet service to underserved Americans, we have also seen many examples where this type of broadband access has been used to help connect our citizens during their times of greatest need. In multiple national disasters, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we have seen WISP operators step in and create networks able to operate and connect people to their families and emergency workers when most other communication options were unusable. Access to spectrum like the 10 GHz band is critical for the success of these WISP operators.

As a former radio amateur (WB3GXU) and member of the ARRL, I was very disappointed to see the ARRL characterize our petition as “fatally flawed.” And while a handful of amateurs in fact came out in support of the petition, the overwhelming majority of the amateur radio operator comments were negative, and often hyperbolic. For an organization founded on the principles of public service and advancing the art of radio communications, it saddens me to see the ARRL work so hard to stifle innovation that so clearly benefits the greater public good. ARRL members represent just 0.05% of the US population, and yet many of them seem unwilling to give any ground to the possibility of sharing the spectrum so that the 30% of Americans without broadband might gain affordable Internet access. It’s especially frustrating to see this hoarding mentality when sharing the band doesn’t jeopardize their hobby activities and costs them so little.

The primary argument put forth by the ARRL – namely, that the ITU Region 2 allocation is for radiolocation and amateur, and thus the FCC does not have the authority to allocate the band for fixed operations – is itself fatally flawed for a variety of reasons:

  • The ITU Constitution begins with a preamble, “While fully recognizing the sovereign right of each State to regulate its telecommunication(s)…” Which is to say that each member country ultimately has the authority to regulate its own telecommunications as they see fit.
  • The ARRL cites Footnote US128 to the Domestic Table of Allocations prohibiting all non-Federal services in the 10.0 – 10.5 GHz band other than amateur radio, amateur-satellite service, and the non-Federal radiolocation service. Contrary to the ARRL assertions, the FCC has the full authority to modify this Footnote through a rulemaking process. Provided that US spectrum allocations do not conflict with our neighbors’ spectrum uses, the FCC can take actions that are inconsistent with the International Table of Allocations put forth by the ITU.
  • Many countries in Region 2 have already allocated the 10 GHz band for fixed operations, including Mexico and Ecuador. Since we launched our petition with the FCC, we’ve also been approached by a group of WISP operators in Canada who want to promote the use of the 10 GHz band for fixed operations there too, which Mimosa supports wholeheartedly. Consequently, we believe there is a strong case for the US to recommend that fixed operations be added to the Region 2 allocation of the 10 GHz band at the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference.
  • We have seen numerous cases where the FCC makes frequency allocations that aren’t consistent with the ITU Region 2 allocations. Take, for example, our favorite U-NII-3 band: 5.725 – 5.850 GHz. By the ITU Region 2 table, the US should be using that band for radiolocation (radar) and amateur operations, and yet the FCC has it allocated for unlicensed RF devices. Moreover, Part 15.407 makes no mention of amateur operations, and no requirement exists to perform DFS in the band even though the ITU allocation says that it’s used for radar!

The last point I want to make is regarding concerns of interference voiced by amateurs. As the many amateur radio sites describe, the 10 GHz band is popular for contests, often trying to make voice connections using narrowband radios attached to parabolic antennas. Since the amateur use of the band is sporadic by nature, and WISP connections are persistent by nature, it is our belief that the amateur can easily pick a clear channel not occupied by a WISP operator. With 450 MHz of spectrum, and voice channels occupying just10 kHz of bandwidth, the radio amateurs have 45,000 choices, and most of these will be free!

Given the overwhelming evidence that sharing the 10 GHz band for Internet service is in the public interest, we encourage the FCC to take action and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to enact our proposals. Please help us continue to advance this agenda by letting your Senator or Representative know that this should be a priority. We deserve better and more affordable Internet access for all Americans.

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