The FCC’s Discontinuance of Operations rule – Section 1.953 – went into effect upon publication in the Federal Register on September 28, 2020. That means that the 180 day clock began ticking on that day for any EBS license that is not currently deployed and providing service. The rule states that a Wireless Service license will automatically terminate if the licensee permanently discontinues service or operations. For Geographic Licenses (such as EBS), “permanent discontinuance” is defined as 180 consecutive days during which a licensee does not operate.
If an EBS licensee has an EBS license that is not deployed and meeting FCC prescribed benchmarks (covering 30% of population in the GSA or operating 6 point to point links for every million persons in the GSA or meeting former minimum educational use requirements – 20 hours per channel per week of use by an accredited school), it has until March 27, 2021 to begin operations and satisfy at least one of these benchmarks, or the license will be automatically terminated and/or future renewal applications will be implicated.
Thereafter, if operations on an EBS license are interrupted for 180 consecutive days, the license will also be in jeopardy.
EBS licensees should consult with their FCC counsel regarding the effect of Section 1953 and what they should be doing to preserve their licenses. Licensees with licenses that are not currently operational in particular need to take immediate steps to construct and commence operations no later than March 27, 2021.