FCC Majority Votes to Approve Dish, H Block Items: Sources

Three 'Yes' Votes Now in for Opening More Spectrum for Wireless Broadband
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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 voted.

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.