Before the

NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION

Washington, D.C. 20230

In the Matter of                                                )

)          

Request For Comments On Deployment           )           Docket No. 011109273-1273-01

Of Broadband Networks And              )          

Advanced Telecommunications             )                      

 

 

 

COMMENTS OF THE WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS

ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL, INC.

The Wireless Communications Association International, Inc. (“WCA”), by its attorneys, hereby submits its comments in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s “Request for Comments on Deployment of Broadband Networks and Advanced Telecommunications” released November 14, 2001.[1]

All available evidence confirms that many areas of the United States still have little or no broadband service, and that certain spectrum policies, combined with network survivability standards, are needed to correct these problems.  Little more than one year ago, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) found that broadband deployment “has only just begun,”[2] and it has become evident that cable modem and DSL services cannot or will not by themselves meet the demand for broadband in rural and smaller markets.  Indeed, according to a joint report prepared last year by NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service, “providers with both rural and non-rural service areas will likely bring broadband to their larger, urban and more lucrative markets first.”[3]  The Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) has confirmed as much:  according to the agency’s 2001 High-Speed Internet Access Report, substantial portions of states having significant non-urban populations still have no high-speed Internet access service.[4] 

The scenario is equally troublesome in larger urban markets, where wireline incumbents remain by far the dominant providers of broadband service and remain free of significant competition from non-wireline technologies and competitive wireline carriers (e.g., CLECs, cable overbuilders).  Indeed, last year NTIA found that over 95% of broadband households subscribed to cable modem (50.8%), DSL (33.7%) or ISDN (10.9%) service.[5]  The Commission’s 2001 High-Speed Internet Access Report confirms that incumbent wireline providers continue to control the broadband marketplace.[6]  Moreover, due to technical issues that limit the reach of cable modem and DSL service, many consumers have access to only one or the other.[7]  Not surprisingly, as a result of the paucity of competition between cable modems and DSL, some cable providers and ILECs have increased the price for residential broadband services since the recent demise of many competitive DSL providers.[8] As noted by one broadband analyst, “[m]ore is made of cable versus DSL than there needs to be.  Because if you are able to choose between cable and DSL, you are one of the chosen few.”[9]

Clearly, then, regulators must encourage the development of wireless alternatives if they are to satisfy their statutory mandate to promote rapid deployment of broadband service to all Americans, not just to those who live in the largest population centers.[10]  Indeed, the Commission has already found that MDS/ITFS operators in the 2150-2162 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz bands (the “2.1 GHz” and “2.5 GHz” bands) may be the sole providers of broadband service in rural or otherwise underserved markets,[11] and that MDS/ITFS broadband systems “will provide a significant opportunity for further competition with cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) services in the provision of broadband services in urban areas.”[12]  Sprint, for example, is already offering MDS/ITFS broadband service in 14 markets across the country.[13]  WorldCom too has made a significant investment in providing MDS/ITFS broadband service throughout the United States, including many small and mid-sized markets.  It currently holds MDS licenses covering more than 31 million households in over 100 markets, and is already providing MDS/ITFS broadband service in the following 13 markets: Bakersfield, CA; Baton Rouge, LA; Chattanooga, TN; Hartford, CT;  Jackson, MS;  Kansas City, MO;  Lafayette, LA; Memphis, TN; Minneapolis, MN; Montgomery, AL; Pensacola, FL; Springfield, MA; and Tallahassee, FL. Nucentrix Broadband Networks, Inc. (“Nucentrix”) holds MDS channel rights covering an estimated 9 million households throughout Texas and the Midwest; significantly, approximately two-thirds of Nucentrix’s markets have fewer than 100,000 households.[14]  The company offers MDS/ITFS broadband service in Austin and Sherman-Denison, Texas.[15]  Also, the Commission has recognized that there are a number of smaller, independent MDS/ITFS operators that are or will soon be offering broadband service in rural and smaller markets in, inter alia, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.[16]  It therefore is imperative that regulators preserve and protect fixed wireless service to the fullest extent possible, so that facilities-based broadband alternatives remain available to serve the public.

Respectfully submitted,

THE WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS

ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL, INC.

By:       ____________________________

Paul J. Sinderbrand

Robert D. Primosch

Wilkinson Barker Knauer, llp

2300 N Street, N.W.

Suite 700

Washington, D.C.  20037-1128

(202) 783-4141

Its Attorneys

December 19, 2001



[1] WCA’s membership includes a wide variety of  wireless broadband system operators, equipment manufacturers and consultants interested in the deployment of licensed and unlicensed spectrum for wireless broadband service in, inter alia, the 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.4 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 5 GHz, 18 GHz, 24 GHz, 28 GHz, 31 GHz and 38 GHz bands.  WCA thus has a direct and substantial interest in this proceeding.

[2] “Falling Through The Net: Toward Digital Inclusion,” NTIA White Paper, http://search .ntia.doc.gov/pdf/fttn00.pdf, at 24 (October 2000).

[3] “Advanced Telecommunications in Rural America: The Challenge of Bringing Broadband Service to All Americans,” NTIA and U.S. Dept. of Agric., at 17 (April 2000).  For example, the report states that while less than five percent of towns of 10,000 or less have cable modem service, more than 65 percent of all cities with populations over 250,000 have some access to such service.  Id. at (ii).  The report also states that “the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) are providing DSL service primarily in cities with populations above 25,000 according to public RBOC data.  While more than 56 percent of all cities with populations exceeding 100,000 had DSL available, less than five percent of cities with populations less than 10,000 had such service.  Deployment of both cable modems and DSL service in remote rural areas is far lower.”  Id.

[4] “High-Speed Services for Internet Access: Subscribership as of December 31, 2000,”  Federal Communications Commission, Common Carrier Bureau, Industry Analysis Division, Table 9 (August 2001) (stating that no high-speed Internet access lines are in service in 59% of the zip codes in Arkansas – percentages for additional states are as follows: Alaska (78%), North Dakota (60%), Kentucky (50%), Montana (51%), South Dakota (49%), Nebraska (49%), Iowa (48%),  Oklahoma (48%), Missouri (47%), Kansas (41%), Mississippi (37%), Louisiana (36%), New Mexico (34%)) [hereinafter cited as the “2001 High-Speed Internet Access Report”].  For purposes of the 2001 High-Speed Internet Access Report, the Commission defines “high-speed” access as that which provides a subscriber with transmissions at a speed in excess of 200 kilobits per second (kbps) in at least one direction.  Id. at 1 n.1.  “Advanced services” are defined as those that provide a subscriber with transmission speeds in excess of 200 kpbs in each direction.  Id.  The Report does not include any statistics as to what percentage of zip codes in each state do not have access to “advanced services.”

[5] “Falling Through The Net: Toward Digital Inclusion,” NTIA White Paper,  http://search.ntia.doc.gov/pdf/fttn00.pdf, at 23 (October 2000).

[6] See 2001 High-Speed Internet Access Report , Table 4 (stating that RBOCs provide 86.3% of all ASDL lines).

[7] See id., Table 1 (stating that high-speed lines provided via cable modem service outnumber ADSL lines by nearly two to one); Applications for Consent to the Transfer of Control of Licenses and Section 214 Authorizations by Time Warner, Inc. and America Online, Inc., Transferors, to AOL Time Warner, Inc., Transferee, 16 FCC Rcd 6547, 6584 (2001) (“[T]he record in this proceeding demonstrates that the availability of DSL in Time Warner service areas may not be sufficiently widespread to constrain the merged firm in the market for residential high-speed Internet access services, at least in the short term”).

[8] See Stern, “Comcast to Raise Internet Service Fees,” The Washington Post, at E11 (Sept. 19, 2001) (discussing Comcast’s cable modem service fee increase from $32.95 to $39.95 per month); Young, “Choose a Cable Modem or DSL?,” at http://interactive.wsj.com/archive (Sept. 10, 2001) (“[A] meltdown among DSL competitors to the regional Bell giants has killed off much of the competition in DSL services.  The collapse has driven many would-be customers away from start-ups for fear they might go out of business overnight – and played into the hands of the dominant cable and phone companies. . . Broadband providers have been quick to take advantage of the situation. . . On average, rates have gone up about $10 per month.”); Plosinka and Coffield, “Top-Dollar DSL,” Interactive Week, at 14-15 (Feb. 19, 2001) (reporting that SBC Communications “is first out of the chute, quietly boosting standard residential [DSL] packages that sold for $40 per month last fall to $50,” and attributing this development to the fact that “[I]n the last six months, many competitive residential DSL providers have gone bankrupt, leaving consumers in many U.S. regions a single choice for DSL service: the local phone company.”).

[9] Brown, “Broadband Battle” (Sept. 2000) at http://www.broadbandweek.com/news.

[10] See, e.g., Statement of Thomas Sugrue, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, United States House of Representatives, Re: Access to Buildings and Facilities by Telecommunications Providers (delivered May 13, 1999) (“Because their technology enables them to avoid the installation of new wireline networks, wireless service providers may be among those with the greatest potential quickly and efficiently to offer widespread competitive facilities-based services to end-users.”).

[11] “Interim Report – Spectrum Study of the 2500-2690 MHz Band: The Potential for Accommodating Third Generation Mobile Systems,” ET Docket No. 00-232, FCC Staff Report, at 22 (Nov. 15, 2000) (hereinafter cited as “Interim Report”).

[12] “Final Report – Spectrum Study of the 2500-2690 MHz Band: The Potential for Accommodating Third Generation Mobile Systems,” ET Docket No. 00-258, FCC Staff Report, at 13 (Mar. 30, 2001).

[13]  See Keynote Address of Len J. Lauer, President – Sprint Global Markets Group, to The Wireless Communications Association International, Inc.’s 2001 Annual Convention, Boston, MA (June 26, 2001) 

[14] See Ex Parte Letter of Nucentrix Broadband Networks, Inc. et al., ET Docket No. 00-258 (July 19, 2001).

[15] See Ex Parte Letter of Nucentrix Broadband Networks, Inc., ET Docket No. 00-258 (June 6, 2001).  Presently, Nucentrix’s broadband customers primarily are medium-sized and small business, small offices/home offices and telecommuters.  The company’s broadband service offerings include Internet access from 128 Kbps to 1.54 Mbps, or up to 50 times faster than service provided via conventional dial-up service.

[16] Interim Report, Appendix 3.3 at A42-A43.