In its August 3rd open meeting, the FCC adopted a decision in WT Docket No. 10-112, harmonizing the renewal requirements for various FCC-licensed wireless service licenses. A copy of that decision can be found at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-17-105A1.pdf. As reflected in paragraphs 13 and 65 of the decision, the FCC exempted EBS from the new renewal, showing, and permanent discontinuance rules, suggesting that EBS presents unique issues that will need to be resolved in a separate proceeding.
For other geographic wireless licenses, the FCC will permit licensees seeking renewal to provide three “safe harbor” certifications which, if they can be made, will result in routine processing and grant of the renewal application. Those certifications are, basically, that the licensee has met ongoing provision of service requirements, it has not permanently discontinued operations (defined as 180 days continuously off the air) and it has substantially complied with applicable rules and policies. If for some reason a licensee cannot meet the safe harbor requirements, it can file a detailed renewal showing based on the actual service provided by the station.
For geographic licenses other than EBS, the new renewal standards and framework take effect on January 21, 2023, giving licensees 5 years to come into compliance.
The FCC’s decision also prohibits competing applications for wireless licenses at renewal time, and therefore removes the condition that many of you have seen on your renewed licenses relating to its pending decision in this docket
As for permanent discontinuance, the FCC will permit extension requests if filed at least 30 days prior to the end of the 180 day period.
Again, these rules do NOT apply to EBS, but they are obviously a guide to current FCC thinking about renewal requirements and discontinuance rules. Issues relating to these matters for EBS stations will be addressed at some point in the long-pending WT Docket 03-66, which we also expect will address EBS white space licensing issues.
The August 3 decision also included a further notice of proposed rulemaking addressing the question of whether service standards ought to be strengthened in later license terms, particularly with respect to extension of service into otherwise unserved areas of a station’s authorized service area. Because these questions build on the FCC’s decision that is not yet applicable to EBS licenses, we expect that the EBS community may not file comments at this time.