Parties Urge FCC to Reform Technical Regulations

A number of parties have asked the FCC to take steps to reform its technical regulations. Comments were due earlier this week in ET docket 17-215 in response to a public notice released in August seeking comment on questions as part of an inquiry launched by the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council to assess whether the Commission’s technical rules should be modified to increase efficiency and reduce regulatory burdens.

In its comments, the Telecommunications Industry Association urged the FCC to (1) streamline its equipment authorization regulations for licensed and unlicensed next-generation wireless technologies; (2) expand the approval process for modular devices and establish a low-power radio frequency device supplier’s declaration of conformity; (3) issue procedures to test millimeter wave devices; and (4) complete its RF exposure proceeding so the Commission’s standards are harmonized with international guidelines.

“The Commission can facilitate the introduction of new technologies by modifying or eliminating outdated and unnecessary rules for legacy systems and leveraging the insight and technical expertise of standards development organizations (‘SDOs’) like ATIS,” said the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. “These outdated regulations, if left unchanged, could slow the deployment of new, improved products and services.  Next, ATIS offers recommendations for how the FCC can best utilize SDOs to facilitate technology transitions.  Consumers would benefit greatly from the Commission’s increased reliance on open standards and industry best practices instead of prescriptive government mandates.  Uniquely positioned to convene key stakeholders to address complex technical challenges, SDOs minimize the need for new regulations and the associated burdens that can negatively affect industry innovation.”

The technical rules that should be modified or eliminated fall in the areas of local exchange carrier services; cable, video, and multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) services; VoIP (voice over-Internet-protocol) services; network outage notification and reporting; and toll-free numbering services, ATIS said.

CTIA said the FCC should (1) “[a]llow commercial mobile licensees to re-aggregate spectrum licenses that previously have been partitioned or disaggregated;” (2) “[s]implify the application and consent process for internal reorganizations;” (3) “[s]treamline the application and review process for intramarket spectrum swaps;” (4) “[u]pdate the field strength requirements to allow for wide bandwidth technologies;” (5) “[u]pdate references to U.S. Census data in the Commission’s rules;” and (6) “[e]liminate inaccurate data from cellular licensing databases.

“By making these changes to the existing regulatory requirements, the Commission will reduce the burdens for both Commission staff and regulated parties and allow for better mobile broadband service for consumers,” CTIA argued.

The Consumer Technology Association urged the TAC to recommend that the FCC (1) “[m]odernize rules regarding marketing and operation of RF devices prior to authorization, which will support innovation without hurting consumers;” (2) “[r]eform the rules to reflect modern arrangements among companies in domestic and international manufacturing chains;” (3) “[e]xpand opportunities for self-certification, including for devices operating at power levels low enough to avoid harm;” (4) “[s]treamline the treatment of confidential exhibits in the certification process;” (5) “[f]urther streamline pro forma license transfers;” (6) “[m]odernize the Experimental Licensing System and make it more user-friendly;” (7) “[i]ncrease the use of multi-stakeholder groups to improve processes and leverage industry input;” and (8) “[e]xamine … the Commission’s physical paper filings, records retention, and notices requirements to remove regulatory underbrush.”

The Wi-Fi Alliance said that “the TAC should focus its efforts on reviewing two areas: the methods by which products with Dynamic Frequency Selection (‘DFS’) are approved and the Commission’s approval of products that share fundamental characteristics (sometimes called ‘product families’).” As for the first issue, the alliance said the FCC could, among other things, (1) permit “re-use of test results of other parties”; (2) increase the “number of conducted tests in lieu of radiated tests in FCC audit testing”; (3) and create a program for trusted vendors.

The Information Technology Industry Council commented on the following rules: “[t]he prohibition of marketing equipment prior to authorization under 47 CFR Section 2.803, EMC testing for IT equipment based on ANSI C63.4, and RF exposure limits and test methods.”

Regarding RF exposure limits and test methods, it asked “that the TAC encourage the Commission to complete its work on the Notice of Inquiry for ET Docket No. 13-84 on radio frequency emissions (RFE), including harmonizing limits for specific absorption rate (SAR) to currently published international guidelines and standards. Currently, the FCC sets unique SAR requirements that require additional testing beyond international limits and test standards. Given the potential benefits of international alignment with these requirements, ITI recommends that the Commission consider harmonizing RF exposure limits, standards and test methods where possible.”

The GPS Innovation Alliance urged the FCC to establish guidelines for when it will accept standards developed by third parties. “When appropriate, the Commission may consider the use of technical standards developed by external organizations with broad-based, consensus-driven processes, but only after careful vetting of such organizations for transparency and inclusiveness,” the alliance said. “Decisions regarding appropriate protection levels for services, however, should be made by the Commission — and not third parties — to ensure that competing public interest considerations are evaluated in the manner required by the Communications Act.”

“The Commission should streamline certain of its rules to assist manufacturers and promote commerce, including its rules for the incorporation of wireless, ultrasonic and digital components in products and large equipment,” according to the Boeing Co. “Presently, Section 15.103 of the Commission’s rules exempts from the equipment authorization requirements digital computing components used in a wide variety of products and equipment, including aircraft, automobiles, home appliances, and specialized medical equipment. The existence of these exemptions has not resulted in harmful interference to other authorized spectrum uses. At the same time, these exemptions have freed manufacturers to employ digital computer processing in an ever increasing number of products and equipment, enabling them to provide additional services to consumers, while operating more efficiently and using less power.

“The Commission should create an additional exemption in Section 15.103 of its rules for digital processing components employed within maritime vessels, particularly autonomous maritime vessels that are rapidly being developed for both surface and submersible operations,” Boeing added. “The justifications for exempting such components in maritime vessels is as compelling —if not more so — as the long standing justification for exempting components in aircraft and automobiles.

“The Commission should also expand the scope of the exemptions that it maintains in Section 15.103 of its rules,” Boeing said. “Specifically, the Commission should create identical exemptions from its equipment approval requirements for industrial, scientific, and medical (‘ISM’) devices under Part 18 of its rules, particularly for non-consumer ISM equipment. The operating conditions of most ISM equipment are very similar to digital processing devices employed by manufacturers in products and equipment. Further, Commission precedent already exists for such an exemption, which is reflected in the Commission’s exemption for ISM equipment employed in specialized medical devices.”

In joint comments, EchoStar Satellite Operating Corp. and its Hughes Network Systems LLC affiliate said that the FCC “should revise Section 2.106’s U.S. table of allocations for satellite services, as well as any related Part 25 technical rules, to be more consistent with international allocations under ITU rules. Such revisions would promote international harmonization of spectrum allocations, facilitate international coordination of satellite operations, and provide greater regulatory certainty for U.S.- and non-U.S.-licensed satellite operators with respect to their international coordination rights and obligations. For example, the Commission should revise the U.S. table of allocations to allocate the 18.8-19.3 GHz and 28.6-29.1 GHz bands for GSO fixed satellite service (‘FSS’) on a co-primary basis with non-geostationary satellite orbit (‘NGSO’) FSS, consistent with international allocations. As a result of this proposed change, the Commission also should consider revising related Part 25 technical rules, such as Section 25.146(a), to require coordination between co-primary NGSO FSS and GSO FSS systems in the 18.8-19.3 GHz and 28.6-29.1 GHz bands.”

The companies continued, “Alternatively, the Commission may consider revising Sections 2.105 and 25.202 to add a general statement of presumption that domestic allocations should be consistent, to the extent possible, with international allocations for satellite services, absent substantial evidence that any differences would better serve the public interest.”

EchoStar and Hughes added, “The Commission, to the extent possible, should revise its Part 25 rules to conform to less stringent ITU technical requirements. Doing so would promote international harmonization of regulatory requirements, enhance operational flexibility for satellite operators, and ensure regulatory parity between U.S.- and non-U.S.-licensed satellite operators. For example, Section 25.210(j) requires GSO satellites to be maintained within 0.05 [degrees] of their assigned orbital longitude in the east-west direction. This FCC requirement parallels, but is more stringent than the 0.1 [degrees] east-west station-keeping requirement under ITU rules, though the basis for maintaining the more stringent requirement seems unclear. Accordingly, given the substantial public interest benefits of internationally harmonized regulatory requirements, the Commission should revise Section 25.210(j) to conform to the ITU’s less stringent 0.1 [degrees] east-west station-keeping requirement.”

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) said, “Licensing spectrum for use in commercial launch activities presents a paradigm case for action, as there is both a demonstrable and growing need for greater efficiency and a ready-made vehicle available for achieving it. The TAC should urge the Commission to act on its long-pending proposals to allocate spectrum used to support commercial launches, and to issue follow-on proposals for service rules to regularize licensing of such spectrum. By taking these steps, the Commission could streamline its processes and thereby promote a fast-growing industry sector in support of the national interest identified by the National Space Council.”

The Commercial Smallsat Spectrum Management Association said that “updates to the shared band coordination process, ITU filing process, and ground station filing rules could make such processes more efficient and timely for the reasons stated above.”

Regarding the shared band coordination process, the organization said that changes could include (1) running “the NTIA coordination process at the outset of the Part 25 licensing process;” (2) informing the FCC of “each band which a Federal agency needs to be coordinated with and the point of contact for that agency[;]” (3) sending full applications to all impacted federal agencies; and (4) requiring a “timeline for submissions and rebuttals within the overall coordination process, providing more certainty and speed to the process.”

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council said it “believes the Commission’s rules are generally sound and serve a key purpose to help prevent interference among co-channel and adjacent channel licensees and between licensees in multiple services. From a public safety perspective, the rules serve as a foundation for effective private sector frequency coordination, which is essential to public safety and industrial/business operations. Private sector frequency coordination is an area in which the Commission has long relied on third parties to make the rules work effectively.

“However, increased reliance on spectrum flexibility and sharing among disparate services and operations is likely to yield an increased risk of interference. NPSTC recommends the Commission strive to support and increase its pool of engineering talent. Actually resolving conflicts in a future environment with increased spectrum sharing will likely require additional engineering support,” the federation added. “When conflicts do arise, NPSTC believes there is great benefit to collaboration among parties, particularly if the various stakeholders involved share a common goal. Public safety agencies that experience interference already work with offending licensees to the extent possible to resolve problems, sometimes without Commission intervention. However, as an overall policy, NPSTC believes there must continue to be an expert governmental entity such as the Commission with the authority to address conflicts and competing interests.”

NPSTC also said that “a standard needs to be from an accredited standards body and should be well accepted by the licensees to which a given set of technical rules apply to be incorporated into the Commission’s rules. Given the standards update process is generally faster than the rulemaking process, the Commission needs to take steps to improve the speed of the rulemaking process, which would have benefits beyond merely the incorporation of standards. Also, some provisions need to be made automatically to incorporate updates when there is a revised version of the relevant standard that is backward compatible with a previous version.” NPSTC also suggested that “the rules applicable to Part 15 unintentional radiators be updated, given the significant changes in technology that have occurred since the rules were originally developed.”

International Business Machines Corp. recommended that the Commission “more often integrate international standards into their rules. In cases where good international standards and practices exist and can adequately protect spectrum usage, promote competition and innovation, and foster economic growth, they should be applied. Unilaterally applying unique criteria and test standards instead of international standards creates undue burdens on manufacturers of affected equipment while, in many cases, providing no significant, tangible benefit to U.S. consumers. Two examples of internationally accepted standards or practices that should be applied instead of unique U.S.-only ones are:  1) alignment to IEEE C95.1-2005 for human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields; and 2) allowing the use of the radiated emission test methods defined in CISPR 32 for RF equipment that is within the scope of both the FCC rules and CISPR 32.” —Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily