Mobile Spectrum to a Smartphone

The FCC has begun accepting applications for the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program (ECIP), an initiative aimed at making wireless spectrum available to small carriers, including those in rural areas, and to Tribal Nations. The program is designed to provide incentives to existing spectrum holders to make some of their spectrum available to those entities.

Applications for participation in the program will be filed with the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Spectrum holders applying to the program will be asked to partition, disaggregate or lease spectrum in an effort to match that spectrum to entities that seek to provide needed services to under-connected communities, the FCC said.

Incentives for the spectrum holders include longer license terms, an extension of construction obligations and more flexible construction requirements. These incentives are aimed at spurring transactions that ultimately will drive broadband to hard to reach and remote areas.

“Deployment in rural areas can be challenging, so we created an innovative opportunity for small carriers and Tribal Nations to access scarce spectrum resources,” FCC  Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release.  “It’s a terrific tool to use—among others—to make sure we reach 100 percent of us with high-speed service.”

The FCC voted to establish ECIP in July 2022. At the time, the draft order said that rewards would include:

  • A five-year license term extension for the assignee and assignor in partitioning and disaggregation transactions, the lessor in qualifying spectrum leasing transactions and the assignee in full license assignments
  • A one-year extension of construction benchmarks for all parties, where applicable
  • Those entering into rural-focused transactions would be allowed to substitute the assignee’s coverage of the ECIP-qualifying geography in lieu of current construction requirements

The administration has long aimed at helping drive broadband on Tribal lands. A year ago, the FCC adopted a proposal seeking comment on steps to encourage greater participation by eligible Tribal applicants in the E-Rate program, which provides high-speed internet to schools and libraries.

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