FCC Turns Down Use of 14.0-14.5 GHz for Critical Infrastructure Communications

Rulemaking petition denied on grounds relating to auction, interference and frequency coordination.

The Wireless and International Bureaus and the Office of Engineering and Technology (Bureaus) have denied a 2008 petition by the Utilities Telecom Council and Winchester Cator, LLC that asked the Commission to open the 14.0-14.5 GHz band for terrestrial point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications. The requested allocation would have served critical infrastructure industries, including electric utilities and emergency responders. Other services would have been permitted on a preemptible basis.

The Bureaus disagreed with the petition’s argument that the band could be licensed without an auction. They also had concerns about interference into fixed satellite uplinks, which are primary in the band, and expressed doubts as to whether the proposed single-entity frequency coordinator could identify and resolve any interference issues that occurred. The Bureaus pointed out many bands the utilities industry could use instead, and also noted its access to “an extensive physical network” that could support wired infrastructure.

Based on these considerations, the Bureaus concluded that the petition “plainly [does] not warrant consideration by the Commission.” That strikes us as little harsh. Had the Bureaus wanted to move forward, they plausibly could have raised each objection instead as a question in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Not mentioned in the turn-down is another possible reason for its issuance: a recently proposed use of this same band for air-ground broadband systems to facilitate Internet service for airplane passengers. We mentioned earlier that the air-ground proposal could put the kibosh on critical infrastructure communications. Perhaps the FCC judged that the two systems could not coexist, and has now made its choice between them.

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