TR Daily Bipartisan House Bill Would Require Public FCC C-Band Auction
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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Bipartisan House Bill Would Require Public FCC C-Band Auction

House communications and technology subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D., Pa.), subcommittee Vice Chair Doris Matsui (D., Calif.), and Reps. Bill Johnson (R., Ohio) and Greg Gianforte (R., Mont.) today introduced a bill that would require the FCC to hold a public auction to license 200 to 300 megahertz of contiguous spectrum in the 3.7–4.2 gigahertz band, or C-band, for the provision of broadband Internet access, while protecting the provision of services that currently use the C-band during and after the transition.

The proposed Broad Airwaves for New Deployment (C-BAND) Act (HR 4855) would reserve 20 MHz of the contiguous spectrum allotted for broadband to serve as a guard band.

The C-BAND Act would essentially bar a proposal by the C-Band Alliance (CBA), a coalition of satellite operators, to repurpose 180 MHz of spectrum in the C-band through a private auction. The CBA proposal would also include a 20 MHz guard band. The CBA has proposed making a voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury but has not said how much that would be.

A competing proposal, the 5G Plus Plan, which is supported by ACA, the Competitive Carriers Association, and Charter Communications, Inc., calls for repurposing at least 370 MHz for terrestrial 5G services through an FCC auction. Under that proposal, the delivery of MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor) programming would be transitioned from satellite to fiber. The 5G Plus Plan calls for the use of 420,000 route miles of fiber, 120,000 of which would be constructed using proceeds from an auction of the C-band spectrum. The total cost of the transition would be $6 billion to $7 billion.

The House communications subcommittee plans to hold a hearing next Tuesday on the FCC’s C-band proceeding (TR Daily, Oct. 22).

The C-BAND Act “would ensure a transparent and fair process that would generate billions of dollars in revenue to address the urgent needs of millions of Americans such as building out broadband internet service in rural America while protecting users of incumbent services,” Chairman Doyle said.

Vice Chair Matsui said, “Moving forward quickly with a public auction produces a win for the American people and the innovation economy.”

Rep. Johnson said, “I believe an open and transparent process that enables competition and protects taxpayer dollars can best be accomplished by the FCC conducting a public auction of C-band spectrum that will help fund broadband deployment where it is needed most—rural America, areas like Eastern and Southeastern Ohio.”

Rep. Gianforte said, “Wireless spectrum is a valuable, strategic public asset, and taxpayers should be compensated for its use. Our bipartisan bill requires the FCC to hold a public auction, promoting a transparent and open process while preventing a private spectrum sale that could benefit foreign entities. The proceeds from the public auction can be used for critical priorities, including expanding reliable broadband service to bridge the digital divide.”

Rep. Matsui introduced a bill in August to incentivize satellite operators that currently operate in the C-band, to free up as much of that mid-band spectrum as possible for commercial wireless use by allotting them an escalating portion of proceeds from the FCC’s auctioning of the spectrum based on how much spectrum is made available for auction.

Competitive Carriers Association President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Berry said, “I thank the Representatives for their bipartisan work on the C-band issue, which is critically important for all competitive carriers. CCA welcomes their strong support for a transparent, pro-competitive FCC-led public auction, and we will continue to work with Congress, the FCC, and stakeholders to maximize the amount of critical mid-band spectrum made available for wireless use in the C-Band. Consumers across the country, especially in rural areas, must have access to the robust mobile broadband services they need and demand, and this valuable spectrum plays an important role in bringing next generation technologies to all Americans.”

CTIA Senior Vice President–government affairs Kelly Cole, said, “We commend Senators Schatz and Thune, as well as Representatives Bilirakis, Gabbard, McNerney and Olson for their commitment to maintaining consumer confidence in Wireless Emergency Alerts. WEAs are one of our most effective public alert warning tools, and we will continue to work with the public safety community and government officials to support their proven life-saving capabilities.”

In a statement, Charter Communications, Inc. said it “appreciates Representatives Mike Doyle, Bill Johnson, Doris Matsui, and Greg Gianforte for recognizing that a fair and transparent auction run by the FCC is the most efficient and effective means of making valuable C-band spectrum available for the widespread deployment of 5G and delivering the benefits of the next generation of broadband connectivity to communities in urban and rural America alike. Their bipartisan C-BAND ACT rightly protects American taxpayers, the true owners of our country’s spectrum assets, and seizes the opportunity to use this valuable national resource to win the race to 5G and help close the digital divide.”

Public Knowledge Director-policy Phillip Berenbroick said, “The bill presents the fastest, most legally sound way for the Commission to repurpose a significant portion of the C-Band to support speedy deployment of next-generation wireless networks. The bill would likely result in the return of tens of billions of dollars of auction proceeds to the Department of the Treasury; Congress could then allocate those funds to help close the digital divide. The legislation would also ensure the auction of C-Band licenses promotes competition and serves the public interest.”

Mr. Berenbroick added, “This bipartisan, common-sense legislation also prevents the illegal proposed ‘private auction’ of the C-Band that is currently under consideration by the FCC. The proposed private auction invites the three satellite companies currently using these frequencies to enter into a closed-door process to divvy up these valuable public airwaves. This proposal would let foreign satellite companies pick winners and losers in the wireless marketplace, and likely reinforce the dominance of the largest wireless carriers. To add insult to injury, the satellite services that use the C-Band received these licenses for free. Their proposal would allow them to reap windfall profits, estimated to be up to $50 billion, for public airwaves they don’t own, leaving taxpayers with pennies on the dollar.

“The private auction proposal also runs afoul of the FCC’s obligation under the Communications Act to hold an auction through a ‘system of competitive bidding’ when there are multiple applicants for a license, and fails to serve the public interest. The legal infirmities of the private auction proposal threaten to massively delay the use of important mid-band spectrum for years,” he said. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress SpectrumAllocation

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