Via both a press briefing and a memo to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and his fellow commissioners, Tom Wheeler, wireless and financial guru and chairman of the FCC’s 5th Technical Advisory Council (TAC), unveiled the results of many months of work aimed at identifying “important areas of innovation and develop informed technology policies supporting America’s competitiveness and job creation in the global economy.”
The TAC is made up of four working groups: Critical Transitions, Broadband Infrastructure Deployment, IPv6 and Sharing Opportunities. Following a late-March meeting, the TAC honed eight near-term opportunities it says could help the FCC promote innovation, competition and job creation in the technology sector:
>> Municipal Race-To-The-Top Program: The commission could identify a list of cities with the best practices in terms of broadband infrastructure deployment. The “Broadband City USA” contest could provide top rankings for cities and towns based on being the most broadband-friendly in terms of infrastructure planning, accommodation and permitting/approvals processes. The FCC also could use this program to highlight a host of best identified practices for broadband infrastructure deployment, including model-city “rights of way” codes.
>> Broadband Infrastructure Executive Order: The FCC should ask President Obama to issue an Executive Order on broadband infrastructure deployment on federal land and in federal buildings. This Order would mandate the following for federal rights of way and antenna siting approvals:
– Single-document format for permitting
– A single federal agency to coordinate the permit approval process
– A 60-day timeframe for approvals
In addition, this Executive Order could advance the development of micro cells, distributed antenna systems (DAS), and other innovative broadband infrastructure, demonstrating a path for growth in this market.
>> Advocacy for Rapid Tower Siting: The FCC should propose that states and municipalities employ a shortened “shot clock” for co-locations on existing structures or permit co-location “by right” – absent special circumstances. If states and municipalities don’t agree to expedite colocation approvals, the agency should express its willingness to proceed with a new, shorter “shot clock” rule for colocations.
>> Best Practices/Technology Outreach to State and Local Governments: The FCC should begin a dialogue with states and municipalities about proved new technologies for efficiently deploying broadband (e.g., micro-trenching, DAS equipment on city light poles, directional boring), including the development of a “road show” or series of workshops highlighting best identified practices with new technologies.
>> Model An Online Deployment-Coordination System: The TAC believes that timely access to underground facilities has a direct bearing on infrastructure costs and deployment. The FCC should develop a voluntary “white label,” Web-based communication tool that can be adopted and labeled as their own by localities to provide advance notification of planned infrastructure projects.
>> New Metrics To Measure Broadband Network Quality: Simply measuring broadband networks by throughput speed does not provide a full picture nor set sufficient performance parameters to support uses with such "extended" quality requirements as healthcare monitoring, emergency services, alarms, etc. Although network services that meet such extended criteria may not be offered by all service providers, or included in all service plans, it would be beneficial to have common metrics for them.
>> Highlight Stranded PSTN Investments: Although new information services are designed for IP networks, many homes and businesses still use devices that depend on specific characteristics of the PSTN (e.g., auto-dialers, alarm systems, ATMs, PoS terminals). These services and devices will have to be replaced and the accompanying construction and inspection "codes" revised. The TAC will be creating an inventory of such services. The TAC will conduct a further technical analysis of the potential short-term and low-cost transitions of this legacy infrastructure, including new IP-enabled devices and the use of traditional copper lines for high-speed, high-quality broadband.
>> Promote Small-Cell Deployment: The FCC and other relevant agencies should convene an industry-led group to discuss ways to accelerate the deployment of small-cell wireless devices (i.e., femtocells, DAS, Wi-Fi) in commercial and government buildings and other high-teledensity venues. The TAC notes two ideas that should be explored: (1) development of “universal architectures” for picocells, femtocells, etc., perhaps leveraging convergence around LTE, so that multiple providers using multiple spectrum bands could be served from a single device; and (2) creation of a new “small-cell band” spectrum allocation, conceptually a hybrid between licensed and unlicensed spectrum.