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Breaker, breaker: FCC to create a citizens broadband service.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler shared with his commissioners Friday afternoon a draft order to create a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

The service would unleash the 3.5 GHz band, a portion of the government spectrum that is speedy, but can’t travel long distances. Through new technology, it can now be shared among by anyone with a FCC certified device (the citizen’s part) as well as with government and commercial users.

With demand for wireless data skyrocketing, the CBRS is designed to act as a congestion-buster, particularly  in confined locales.

Wireless companies could buy targeted, short-duration licenses to use the spectrum in compact public spaces like crowded shopping malls, stadiums, or other densely-populated public areas. Companies could also use the band for industrial uses to control robots or machines. The band also opens up options to bring wireless broadband to rural consumers.

“It provides an opportunity to try new innovations in spectrum licensing and access schemes to meet the needs of a multiplicity of users, simultaneously. And, crucially, we can do all of this in a way that does not harm important federal missions,” Wheeler wrote in a blog post.

Google has expressed a strong interest in the spectrum. Verizon, Qualcomm and Ericsson have partnered on field tests.

Wheeler’s plan, which will be voted on at the commission’s April 17 meeting, is rather geeky. It uses a dynamic sharing system to prioritize who get what share of the bandwidth when.

The lowest tier is open to anyone with an FCC-certified device. In the middle tier users of the band can acquire at auction targeted, short-duration licenses. The top tier belongs to incumbent federal and commercial radar, satellite, and other users.