Spectrum for Rural Telcos Is Key to Success of FCC Rural Wireless Auction Policies

Arlington, Va., December 29, 2003 – The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) is pushing for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to pay attention to the carriers most likely to provide wireless opportunities to rural consumers – rural telephone companies. NTCA believes that by taking these rural telephone companies into account, the FCC will succeed in its efforts to facilitate spectrum-based offerings in rural America.

In response to WT Dockets 02-381, 01-14 and 03-202, NTCA filed the attached comments urging the FCC to develop spectrum policies and auction rules to promote spectrum-based service to rural America and provide opportunities for rural telephone companies.

Specifically, NTCA urged the FCC to consider the following:

  1. The commission has a statutory obligation to disseminate spectrum licenses to rural telephone companies.

  2. Rural telephone companies are uniquely situated to provide quality wireless service to rural areas.

  3. Rural concerns and needs for spectrum will be best addressed if a) there is a presumption that spectrum will be licensed according to small geographic areas, b) a “keep what you use” approach is used when large geographic territories are licensed and c) the "substantial service" licensing approach is used when spectrum is licensed according to small geographic areas.

  4. While unlicensed spectrum is being utilized in rural areas, interference concerns make the spectrum unreliable and often unusable. Therefore, NTCA believes licensed spectrum is a more feasible option.

  5. NTCA cautions against using competition as the sole policy tool to bring wireless to rural America. If policies are designed to introduce more licensees than a market can support, the consumer will lose as these companies fail.

Highlights from the filing follow:

"It is clear that rural spectrum issues were a high priority for Congress when it passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The rural message is enforced and the role of rural telephone companies is emphasized in Section 309(j)(3)(B) that tells the commission to disseminate spectrum licenses to a wide variety of applicants, including specifically rural telephone companies.

"Congress recognized that rural telephone companies required special protections and the commission must act in accordance with Congress’ intent.

"In most rural communities, the telco is the largest or one of the largest businesses in town.  The rural telco’s prosperity is tied to the community’s prosperity and future.  Rural telcos are motivated not only by the bottom line, but also by a civic duty to ensure the viability of their community as this country moves toward a wireless future.

"NTCA applauds the commission’s efforts in this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and looks forward to having a dialogue with the commission to help it develop spectrum policies and auction rules that will better promote service to rural America and provide opportunities for rural telephone companies."


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NTCA is the premier association representing more than 550 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative,Contact Caitlin Colligan at 703-351-2086 regulatory, and industry representation; meetings, publications, and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs.