Ajit Pai and Tom Wheeler agree: FAA is misbehaving in battle against FCC

Then-Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Tom Wheeler and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai smiling and talking to each other before a congressional hearing.
Enlarge / Then-Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Tom Wheeler (left) and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai speak before testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on March 25, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Six former chairmen of the Federal Communications Commission yesterday criticized the Federal Aviation Administration’s fight against a new deployment of 5G on spectrum that the FCC has studied and deemed safe to use. Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael Powell joined Democrats Tom Wheeler, Mignon Clyburn, Julius Genachowski and Michael Copps in writing a letter describing your concerns about how the FAA has tried to undermine public confidence in the FCC’s decision-making process.

“The FAA should work with the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) … to assess and resolve the FAA’s concerns quickly, but this debate should not be fought publicly in a way that undermines consumer confidence in the process, not even if it requires months of additional delays, “said the letter from the six former presidents, which was sent to FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel and NTIA Acting Administrator Evelyn Remaley.

The “FAA position threatens to derail the reasoned conclusions reached by the FCC after years of analysis and technical studies,” the former presidents also wrote.

AT&T and Verizon have already delayed their 5G launches on the new spectrum to assuage concerns from the FAA, but the carriers plan to move forward with deployments next month.

No evidence of harm

Almost 40 other countries are using C-band spectrum for 5G without any reports of interference from aircraft radio altimeters. As we wrote above, the FCC in February 2020 approved the use of C-band spectrum from 3.7 to 3.98 GHz by mobile operators only after analyzing the aviation industry interference claims and finding no credible evidence. damage to altimeters, which use the spectrum from 4.2 to 4.4. GHz.

To be safe, the FCC required operators to follow power limits and created a 220 MHz guard band that will not be used to protect altimeters from any potential interference from 5G transmissions. The FCC’s decision said that the aviation industry’s investigation was unrealistic and that “well-designed equipment should not normally receive any significant interference (let alone harmful interference) under these circumstances.”

More than a year after the FCC dismissed aviation industry objections due to a lack of evidence, unidentified FAA officials tried to revive the debate by filtering your worries to The Wall Street Journal. The FAA followed that by issuing a November 2 Newsletter which warned of “possible adverse effects on radio altimeters” despite the FAA bulletin acknowledging that there have been “no proven reports of harmful interference” in the many countries where this spectrum is already used.

Former presidents say the FCC acted on the evidence

The letter from former FCC chairs said the agency’s 2020 decision on C-band spectrum “followed nearly two years of careful review of the public record,” during which other federal agencies had the opportunity “to raise – and defend with reliable data – their concerns about interference from the transition of the spectrum to new uses. “

“At the end of this process, an FCC decision is reached that reflects input from all stakeholders and their technical experts on the effective spectrum transition, consistent with their legal obligation to ensure that new systems do not cause interference. harmful, “said the first. chairs wrote. “In turn, this decision-making approach gives wireless companies or other licensees the confidence to invest in the networks that will deliver the innovation that will ensure that the US remains the world’s technology leader.”

That’s how it is assumption work, but the FAA’s actions threaten to derail the process, the letter concluded:

In this case, the FAA’s position threatens to derail the reasoned conclusions reached by the FCC after years of analysis and technical studies. We encourage all stakeholders to work together toward speedy resolution of issues in this band and to ensure that these surprises do not become a recurring feature of US spectrum management in the future.


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