Friday, September 06, 2019

After NTIA's Report, the FCC Should Act on Ligado's Spectrum Proposal

On August 30, NTIA released its first "Annual Report on the Status of Spectrum Repurposing." The report overviews "existing efforts and planned near- to mid-term spectrum repurposing initiatives." This includes 30 MHz of L-Band spectrum that Ligado Networks has proposed to repurpose for hybrid terrestrial-satellite network operations. In describing "Next Steps" for that valuable but currently unused L-Band spectrum, NTIA's report states: "The FCC will issue a determination on the applicant’s pending modification applications." 

The upshot of NTIA's report for Ligado's L-Band spectrum is the recognition that the ball is now in the FCC's court. Now the Commission ought to take decisive action on Ligado Networks' amended applications to deploy its wireless terrestrial network. On several occasions, Free State Foundation President Randolph May and I have called for an agency decision on Ligado's modified applications. And we have pointed to the potential economic benefits – potentially between $250 and $500 billion – that would result from putting Ligado's L-Band spectrum into use for delivering Internet-of-Things (IoT) services and other advanced uses for business enterprises. 

Indeed, Ligado filed a June 2019 petition seeking prompt action on its proposed terrestrial wireless network pursuant to Section 7 of the Communications Act. As Randolph May and I have stated, "Ligado presents a strong case that its proposed hybrid network fits within the Section 7 definition of new technologies and services." Putting more spectrum into commercial use for advanced services is mission critical for the U.S. economy. With NTIA's acknowledgement that Ligado's modified applications now await an FCC determination, the Commission should act promptly to render a decision.