According to multiple sources, a majority of FCC commissioners
have voted to approve the items allowing Dish to use its satellite spectrum for
terrestrial wireless broadband and opening up adjacent spectrum (the H block
)for wireless use as well.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, whose yes vote has been on
the books for some time now, has now been joined by FCC chairman Julius
Genachowski and Republican commissioner Robert McDowell, according to sources
familiar with the votes.
The item had been scheduled for a vote at the Dec. 12 public
meeting, but will be pulled if the other two commissioners vote it before then,
as is likely. The item was actually circulated for a vote several weeks ago,
but then added to the public meeting list. There has been some complaint that
the vote was being taken out of the public eye.
The item is also apparently still being vetted for any
technical issues with adjacent government spectrum per a standard interagency
review process, though there are not expected to be any issues.
The Dish item allows for the terrestrial use of Dish's 40 MHz
of spectrum in the AWS-4 band, which clears the way for Dish to use that
spectrum for wireless broadband, or alternately to sell the now more valuable
spectrum licenses if that business plan does not work out.
That is the good news for Dish. The bad news is that,
according to sources, Dish will be on the hook for making sure its service does
not interfere with users of the H Block, which the FCC will be auctioning per
the second item.
There had been some question whether the onus would be on H
Block users or Dish to guard against the interference. As the item stands,
according to FCC sources familiar with it, Dish will have to restrict power
levels on the lower 5 MHz of its spectrum adjacent to the AWS-4 band per the
drafts initial requirement.
Dish balked at that requirement, then offered
to accept the 5 MHz guard band if the FCC would loosen restrictions on the
rest of the spectrum. That proposal was apparently not part of the item as
Dish had initially sought an FCC waiver to use its AWS-4
spectrum, which it purchased out of bankruptcy from TerreStar and DBSD, for a
hybrid terrestrial-satellite broadcast service, but the FCC put that on hold
while it prepared the item loosening the satellite-only restrictions on the
entire band, which means the looser rules would convey to a new licensee going
forward, not just apply to Dish.