FCC Proposes Rules Changes to Improve Wireless Coverage Through the Use of Signal Boosters
Originally published: April 13, 2011
Last updated: April 13, 2011 - 11:30am
On April 5 the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to facilitate the development and deployment of well-designed signal boosters, which hold great potential to empower consumers in rural and underserved areas to improve their wireless coverage in their homes, at their jobs, and when they travel by car, recreational vehicle, or boat.
Although by one measure, 99.6 percent of the nation's population is served by one or more mobile voice providers, and more than 98 percent of the nation's population can now receive "advanced" or "3G" wireless services, coverage gaps exist within and at the fringes of those service areas and continue to pose a problem for residents, businesses, public institutions, visitors, and public safety first responders, particularly in rural areas. Signal boosters are part of the solution to addressing coverage gaps in rural areas. Signal boosters can also mitigate service gaps in difficult-to-serve in-building environments such as in office buildings where people work, in health care facilities where doctors and other health care personnel need reliable communications, and on educational campuses where students want access to cutting edge wireless service offerings. In addition, signal boosters can provide public safety benefits, for example, by enabling the public to connect to 911 in areas where wireless coverage is deficient or where an adequate communications signal is blocked or shielded.
The regulatory framework for signal boosters proposed in this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is one element in a set of initiatives designed to promote deployment of mobile voice and broadband services in the United States. 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.
Malfunctioning, poorly designed, or improperly installed signal boosters, however, may harm consumers by blocking calls, including E-911 and other emergency calls, and decreasing network coverage and capacity. The regulatory framework proposed in this NPRM seeks to create appropriate incentives for carriers and manufacturers to collaboratively develop robust signal boosters that do not harm wireless networks. This, in turn, will enable consumers to improve their cell phone coverage as they deem necessary. The public interest is best served by ensuring that consumers have access to well-designed boosters that do not harm wireless networks.
The NPRM proposes a new regulatory framework authorizing individuals and entities to operate "consumer signal boosters" provided the devices comply with: (1) all applicable technical and radiofrequency (RF) exposure rules, and (2) a set of parameters aimed at preventing and controlling interference and rapidly resolving interference problems should they occur. We also propose revisions to the rules governing signal boosters used for private land mobile services.
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