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FCC Pauses Trump-Era Sharing Plan For 4.9 GHz Band

Law360 (May 28, 2021, 5:01 PM EDT) — In a 3-1 vote, the Federal Communications Commission quietly halted a Trump administration plan to open up a spectrum band currently dedicated to public safety, the 4.9 gigahertz band, for licensed sharing with the private sector.

Without fanfare, the FCC on Thursday released an order freezing a September 2020 party line vote that would have let states license unused parts of the band to commercial entities.

Now-acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel objected to the original vote led by Republican Ajit Pai last year, saying the agency would create a patchwork of inconsistently licensed spectrum that erodes the band’s original intent. Rosenworcel asked her colleagues to vote on the latest order to halt the plan, which had not yet taken effect, in response to petitions from several public safety organizations.

“We believe that, in light of the serious questions posed by the petitions for reconsideration, the possibility of irreparable harm to current and future public safety users of the 4.9 GHz band … a stay is appropriate,” according to the five-page order, dated May 25 but released Thursday.

FCC Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr cast the lone dissenting vote, saying “the status quo was not working” in the 4.9 GHz band and that the band “remained woefully underutilized” after almost 20 years of dedication to public safety.

“I am disappointed that the commission’s decision to stay our 4.9 GHz band order will return this spectrum to the broken framework of the past,” he wrote.

However, Carr signaled that he hopes the commission can still agree on a tweaked sharing framework that could still be suitable for the band.

“While I am dissenting from today’s decision, I remain hopeful that we can find a way to quickly put a beneficial framework back in place. And I am open to working with my colleagues, the public safety community and all other stakeholders on doing exactly that,” he said.

–Editing by Stephen Berg.

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