TR Daily CBA Pledges ‘Voluntary Contribution’ if FCC Approves Auction Plan
Monday, July 15, 2019

CBA Pledges ‘Voluntary Contribution’ if FCC Approves Auction Plan

The C-Band Alliance plans to “make a significant voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury” if the FCC approves the group’s proposed secondary market auction of spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 gigahertz band for 5G terrestrial services, according to prepared testimony for a House hearing tomorrow.

The testimony of Peter Pitsch, head-advocacy & government affairs for the CBA, says that “if the FCC approves the CBA’s proposed auction, CBA’s member companies have committed to make a significant voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury. Moreover, as should now be clear, the CBA’s members are undertaking considerable expense and risk, and the likely near term benefits to society from clearing this spectrum for terrestrial 5G use years faster than the alternatives will dwarf any future auction revenues. Simply put, concerns about ‘unjust enrichment’, ‘windfall’, and ‘speculation’ are unfounded,” Mr. Pitsch said. “Americans and the U.S. Treasury will benefit significantly from the proceeds of the CBA’s proposed auction, not to mention the innovations Americans will see from accelerated 5G deployment.”

In his testimony, Mr. Pitsch seeks, among other things, to address the argument that approving the CBA’s secondary-market plan to repurpose 200 megahertz of spectrum for terrestrial 5G services, including a 20-MHz guard band, will produce a windfall for the CBA’s four satellite incumbents.

In response to questions from TR Daily today about the voluntary contribution pledge, Dianne VanBeber, a spokeswoman for the CBA, said that “[w]e have been ‘saying’ it for a while, but this is the first time it appears in print. Today’s message makes clear that we expect to enter into this discussion with the appropriate government authorities at the right time. We would not let a resolvable issue get in the way of moving forward with our proposal.”

Asked about the amount of the contribution, Ms. VanBeber replied, “The amount will need to be determined after we have a sense that the material aspects of our proposal are accepted. This will open the door to a discussion of the economics of a contribution.”

Mr. Pitsch is one of eight witnesses scheduled to testify tomorrow before the House communications and technology subcommittee at tomorrow’s spectrum hearing. The hearing is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Panel one is to feature Julie Knapp, chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, and Derek Khlopin, senior policy adviser at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

In addition to Mr. Pitsch, the witnesses scheduled to testify on the second panel are Tim Donovan, senior vice president-legislative affairs for the Competitive Carriers Association; Scott Bergmann, SVP-regulatory affairs for CTIA; Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute; Mariel Triggs, chief executive officer of MuralNet; and Jeff Cohen, chief counsel and director-government relations for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International.

Regarding the 3.7-4.2 GHz band proceeding, Mr. Donovan noted that CCA recently submitted with ACA and Charter Communications, Inc., a proposal to free up at least 370 MHz of mid-band spectrum for 5G deployment (TR Daily, July 2).

“Under our compromise proposal, video programmers and multichannel video programming distributors would transition from satellite connections to fiber connections, using some of the proceeds of the auction to fund the transition,” Mr. Donovan said. “By reducing demand for satellite programming delivery, additional spectrum can be made available for terrestrial broadband use. And while lower bandwidth or narrowband users could continue to use C-Band satellite connections, the proposal would repack these systems to the uppermost portion of the C-Band to repurpose as much of the band as possible for terrestrial wireless services. The FCC would then assign the C-band for terrestrial use and award the resulting terrestrial licenses through a transparent system of competitive bidding that satisfies the requirements of the Communications Act.”

Mr. Donovan also discussed other issues important to smaller carriers in their attempt to get access to frequencies, including the need for small licenses, interoperability, sufficient spectrum, and bidding incentives.

In his testimony, Mr. Calabrese reiterated his group’s opposition to the CBA’s secondary market auction plan, saying that the “C-band gives Congress an opportunity to mandate both a public auction and coordinated shared access to unused spectrum in the C-band, which together can provide billions in funding for infrastructure and the spectrum that rural broadband providers, schools, and other enterprises need to close the connectivity gap in underserved areas.”

As for other bands, Mr. Calabrese also highlighted the potential of the 5.9 GHz band to be used by unlicensed devices.

“To its credit, a majority of FCC commissioners seem eager to resolve this issue. Chairman [Ajit] Pai had planned to put a very objective Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the FCC’s June 2019 meeting agenda, seeking comment on several possible outcomes [TR Daily, May 14]. However, that attempt to update the record continues to be delayed by DOT, which appears unwilling to let the FCC explore all options that serve the public interest overall,” Mr. Calabrese said. “We believe Congress should urge the FCC and DOT to work together to solicit public input and explore all alternatives, including whether an alternative band, such as the nearly vacant 4.9 GHz public safety band, could be equally or more useful for vehicle safety applications that are integrated with 5G mobile networks. Consumers will benefit most if allocations for both safety and Wi-Fi are optimized.”

In his prepared testimony, Mr. Knapp detailed efforts the FCC has undertaken recently to make spectrum available for 5G services in various bands, including mid-band and high-band frequencies.

“The Commission has also moved forward with a rulemaking proceeding in which it proposed to reallocate spectrum for 5G in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, commonly called the C-band, and to make part or all of that band available for flexible use. The Commission is considering a number of proposals for how we might go about repurposing this spectrum, including through market mechanisms and auctions,” Mr. Knapp noted. “This is a very complicated proceeding. But Chairman Pai has indicated that we will have results to show on this front this fall.”

As for the 5.9 GHz band, Mr. Knapp said, “Some have suggested that it is time to review the overall use of this 75 megahertz of spectrum. We are working closely with the Department of Transportation and NTIA in considering next steps.”

In his prepared testimony, Mr. Khlopin said that the Commerce Department “is on track to deliver” a national spectrum strategy to President Trump “in the coming weeks.”

Mr. Bergmann stressed the importance to industry of making mid-band spectrum available to wireless carriers. “The opportunities for mid-band are there, and it’s now about execution. At CTIA, we are eager to work with policymakers on expediting U.S. efforts to address this clear national mid-band priority,” he said.

“Even as policymakers advance smart spectrum policies here in the U.S., it is critical that, as we prepare for the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference, we maintain U.S. leadership in wireless on the international stage and support 5G leadership here at home,” Mr. Bergmann added. “This includes advancing 5G in the 24 GHz band, which the FCC just auctioned for more than $2 billion. As described above, the 24 GHz band will play a critical role in supporting 5G services. The FCC — the expert agency on spectrum and interference issues — engaged in a deliberative, five-year process to ensure that wireless services could be deployed in this band while protecting existing government services. Policymakers should be skeptical of 11th hour attempts to deny access to this band, which would impact not just the 24 GHz band, but potentially all of our 5G high-band spectrum. As the U.S. government prepares for the upcoming conference, the overarching goal should be to ensure that our efforts are directed at promoting rapid 5G deployment across the U.S. CTIA urges Congress to encourage the Administration to ensure that its positions reinforce our 5G leadership and do not undermine access to critical spectrum bands that have already been identified for 5G use in the U.S.”

Mr. Cohen said policy-makers must ensure that public safety operations in the 6 GHz band are not hurt by interference from unlicensed devices being contemplated in another ongoing FCC proceeding.

“The bottom line is that spectrum bands housing public safety operations are not the appropriate arena to deploy new, unproven spectrum sharing and frequency coordination methods,” he said. “Considering the introduction of unlicensed uses into a public safety band warrants increased scrutiny. Fixed service systems such as those relied upon by public safety for mission critical communications are not designed to detect interference and are incapable of attributing it to a particular source. Thus, it is important to be especially mindful of the fact that if the sharing mechanism fails, or consumers or equipment manufacturers disable or misuse the interference protection mechanisms, there is no way to reverse the resulting interference.”

Regarding the 470-512 MHz T-band, Mr. Cohen noted that “the FCC must reallocate and auction this spectrum by February 2021. The options for replacement spectrum to account for the loss of the T-Band remain very limited. Accordingly, given everything that would have to be set into motion, including all the actions the FCC would need to take, and with nowhere for public safety to move to, the right thing to do is for Congress to repeal this provision. There would be no budgetary impact with repeal. Further, there has been little if any interest expressed by potential bidders for this spectrum, making the prospect of any new spectrum efficiencies or significant auction revenue slim, contrary to the typical goals of spectrum auctions. Further, it remains APCO’s position that it would be unfair to ask public safety for anything in exchange for repeal of this provision.”

Ms. Triggs, whose nonprofit works to help tribes build broadband networks, complained about the tribal priority filing window the FCC adopted in a 2.5 GHz band educational broadband service (EBS) order adopted last week (TR Daily, July 10).

“While this was a groundbreaking measure that will connect many people on tribal lands, a 90-day outreach period followed by a 60-day application window is too short and expecting tribal nations to build out networks twice as fast as major telecoms is unjustifiable,” she said. “We support a year-long outreach and application window with rolling automatic approvals for tribal governments so that buildouts can happen quickly, thus serving as an example to neighboring tribal communities of what is possible and inspiring them to do the same.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: Congress FederalNews FCC SpectrumAllocation NTIA

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