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FCC Recognizes Need For Signal Boosters and Proposes Regulatory Framework

Today, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that recognizes the need for consumer signal boosters to fill in the gaps in carriers wireless coverage. The NPRM suggests new rules and standards for signal boosters to ensure they can boost cellular signal for consumers without any adverse effects. The FCC notes that the signal coverage is not complete in rural and other underserved areas and that “signal boosters are part of the solution”.

Well-designed, properly operating, and properly installed signal boosters have the potential to improve consumers™ wireless network coverage without harming commercial, private, and public safety wireless network performance

This is part of the ongoing initiative to promote and improve voice and broadband services in the United States with the FCC also noting that signal boosters can aid public safety first responders, residents, businesses and students get the adequate cellular coverage that they require to function. The key motivations and points in the NPRM are quoted as follows:

“Police departments and emergency medical personell rely on signal boosters to extend land mobile coverage in areas of limited service and to improve communications during disasters and other emergencies.”

“Malfunctioning, improperly installed, or technically deficient signal boosters, may cause harmful interference”

“Our goal in this proceeding is to facilitate the development and deployment of well-designed signal boosters that do not interfere with wireless networks.”

So how exactly would the new regulations work? Well, the FCC is proposing a license-by-rule framework, whereby operation of signal boosters would be permitted by the agencies authority and thus “obviate the need for burdensome individual licensing requirements”. This would involve the establishing of a new Signal Booster Radio Service under Part 95 of the Commission’s Rules. The FCC is also considering an alternative approach whereby signal boosters would be licensed under existing laws for subscriber equipment, much like cellular handsets are today.

In short, the FCC is formalizing what most of us have known all along: cellular coverage is not good enough. In the modern age we are ever more reliant on our phones for important calls and increasingly data services. The FCC recognizes that the task of providing this service cannot fall on the carriers alone and is moving to make cellular signal boosters part of the solution.

The full document can be read here: FCC Signal Booster NPRM

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