What to Expect in the New License Renewal Rules

More than seven years after initiating this proceeding, the FCC Second Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, adopted at its August 3, 2017, modifies and makes more uniform the rules governing license renewal and discontinuance of operation for all Wireless Radio Services (WRS). Below is a summary of changes.

  • Renewals

At time of renewal, a licensee will be required to certify that (i) it is operating at that time an internal system or providing service: (ii) there has been no permanent discontinuance of operation during the license term; and (iii) it has substantially complied with FCC rules during the license term and is not the subject of a pending proceeding regarding license violations. It is not clear if this certification will be via an FCC form or a document created by the applicant.  

Renewals will be granted for applicants that meet the following “safe harbor” standards and that can make the certifications above.

  • Site-based: the licensee is continuing to operate consistent with its most recently filed construction notification.
  • Geographic:  the licensee is continuing to operate at the level certified at its last build-out requirement. THIS RULE WILL NOT BECOME EFFECTIVE UNTIL January 1, 2023.

Renewal applicants that cannot meet the applicable safe harbor standard will need to make a more detailed renewal showing that describes the level/quality of service on the system, number of subscribers or internal units, whether the system serves rural or tribal land, and other information.

  • Discontinuance of Operation
  • Site-based: 365 consecutive days of non-operation and can apply to an entire license, a frequency, a site, or a path.
  • Geographic: 180 consecutive days of non-operation, but one facility serving one non-affiliated subscriber is sufficient to qualify as continued operation.
  • Channel Keepers: Operation of devices that transmit test signals, tones, and/or color bars, for example, does not constitute operation or service for purposes of the permanent discontinuance rule.
  • Public Safety

Although the Land Mobile Communications Council (LMCC) recommended against this policy in 2010, the draft rules exempt public safety licensees from having to meet the new renewal requirements and appear to exempt them from any discontinuance of operation rule. The LMCC filed an ex parte letter on July 21, 2017, urging the FCC to include public safety in all these requirements. Although it had endorsed the 2010 position, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) now objects to it. EWA filed an ex parte letter yesterday supporting the LMCC position and urging the FCC not to accept public safety waiver requests for I/B spectrum if public safety remains exempt from these requirements. 

The draft Order also addresses renewal requirements for partitioned and disaggregated licenses.

The draft Order does not address EWA’s June 1 comments recommending that the rules be tailored, based on the amount of spectrum and geography authorized for the license being renewed, or its proposal to return to 5-year license terms for site-based Part 90 licensees. 

The draft item does include a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which seeks to determine whether build-out obligations should be increased at renewal to address the continued failure to provide broadband service in rural areas. (WT 10-112)


Category: EWA On Your Side