FCC Concludes 700 MHz Band Licensees Are Subject to 911/E911 Rules

August 3, 2006. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted, but did not release, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding changes to its rules governing wireless licenses in the 698-746, 747-762, and 777-792 MHz Bands. This item also contains a tentative conclusion that wireless services licensed in this 700 MHz band, including broadband internet access services, as well as other wireless services covered by Part 27 of the FCC's rules, are subject to 911/E911 regulation.

The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 established a hard deadline of February 17, 2009, for the cessation of analog broadcasting in the 700 MHz band. It also established a deadline of January 28, 2008, for the FCC to begin the auction for the licenses associated with the recovered analog spectrum.

This NPRM proposes service rules for the 700 MHz commercial band.

The FCC issued a short release [PDF] that describes this NPRM. It states that the FCC tentatively concludes that "services provided by licensees in the 700 MHz Band, and in other bands subject to Part 27 of the rules, should be subject to E911 and hearing aid-compatibility requirements to the same extent that such services would be covered if provided in other bands." See, 47 C.F.R. Part 27.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wrote in a separate statement [PDF] that "The 700MHz spectrum that we will auction in 2008 is key to spreading the benefits of broadband across our country". He called this the "grand-daddy of all auctions".

He added that "I am also pleased with our tentative conclusion that the full range of E911 and hearing aid compatibility rules will apply to services in this band and, I might add, in the Advanced Wireless Services band whose auction is more imminent."

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wrote in a separate statement [PDF] that this band is "well-suited for the provision of wireless broadband services", and that "We also intend to ensure that service providers in this band and other broadband bands comply with our E911 and hearing aid-compatibility rules."

FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate wrote in a separate statement [PDF] that the 700 MHz band "will bring high-speed applications like streaming video to wireless customers". She also wrote "I also would like to applaud the tentative conclusion that services in the 700 MHz Band that meet certain criteria should be subject to 911/E911" requirements.

See also, statement [PDF] by Commissioner Robert McDowell, and statement [PDF] by Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.

The FCC release also states that the FCC seeks comment on, among other things, "the possibility of modifying the size of the geographic service areas and spectrum blocks, and on revising the performance requirements, for the portions of the 700 MHz band that have not yet been auctioned. The FCC is also seeking comment on several issues related to both auctioned and unauctioned spectrum in the 698-746, 747-762, and 777-792 MHz bands, including modifying the rules related to license renewal, license terms, and power limits."

The FCC release adds that "Regarding the portions of the 700 MHz Band that have not yet been auctioned, today’s Notice seeks comment on whether there is a need to revise the size of the geographic service areas for the remaining unauctioned spectrum in the band, including the possibility of using smaller areas - such as the 734 Cellular Market Areas composed of Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Rural Service Areas. The Notice also seeks comment on whether to modify the size of certain spectrum blocks, including the possibility of dividing Block D in the Upper 700 MHz Band into smaller blocks. The Notice also requests input on whether to add or revise performance requirements for unauctioned spectrum, including such alternatives as specific construction benchmarks."

This NPRM is FCC 06-114 WT Docket No. 06-150, CC Docket No. 94-102, and WT Docket No. 01-309.