FCC to report on frequency congestion in the 11, 18, and 23 GHz microwave bands.

Chances are you have forgotten about the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, passed back in February, ostensibly to extend a cut in payroll taxes. But the FCC hasn’t forgotten. Because the 250+ pages of the Act unrelated to extending tax cuts include a provision telling the FCC to report to Congress next October on a topic that, frankly, we didn’t know Congress cared about: common carrier point-to-point microwave applications in the 11, 18, and 23 GHz bands that fail to make it through frequency coordination. Read the details here.

The FCC has now released a public notice inviting input on that subject. And it may indeed need help.

The FCC’s first problem: Congress has ordered it to report on the application “rejection rate”, which Congress defines as

the number and percent of applications (whether made to the Commission or to a third-party coordinator) for common carrier use of spectrum that were not granted because of lack of availability of such spectrum or interference concerns of existing licensees.

But applications go only to the FCC, not to frequency coordinators. And by FCC rule, they reach the FCC only after successful coordination. So the rejection rate, as defined by Congress, is necessarily zero.

Rather than just tell that to Congress and get back to its real work, the FCC obligingly broadened the question to one that perhaps Congress meant to ask: the numbers of requests to frequency coordinators that could not be accommodated, and the reasons why.

But even that generous re-phrasing still poses problems.  The answer to the re-phrased question probably is also zero, or close to it. That’s because, in our experience, frequency coordinators usually find a way to meet their customers’ needs. Plus, if in fact coordinators have received requests they could not fulfill, they may not be able to tell the FCC much about them, since nothing requires coordinators to keep records of those (or any) customer requests. And if the coordinators do have records of rejected applications, they are unlikely to know which ones were intended to become common carrier applications. And even if they had all those data (which we doubt), the frequency coordinators may not want to disclose them via a public docket, in a competitive environment.

Comments in response to the public notice are due on July 20, 2012. There is no provision for reply comments. In a rare move, the FCC will allow parties to submit information without also posting it in the docket. But be careful: information sent to the FCC remains subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, unless it qualifies for confidential treatment and the submitter makes a proper and timely request for FOIA non-disclosure.