Over the dissents of Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, the FCC today adopted an order approving the clearing of 300 megahertz band of C-band spectrum for terrestrial 5G use. The agency also adopted on the same 3-2 vote a public notice seeking comment on procedures for an auction of 3.7-3.98 gigahertz band licenses that is scheduled to start Dec. 8.
Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks complained that the FCC exceeded its statutory authority in approving a requirement that C-band auction bidders pay satellite operators up to $9.7 billion in accelerated relocation payments, leaving the agency vulnerable to a legal challenge. They also questioned the way the Commission arrived at the $9.7 billion figure as well as the estimate on regular relocation expenses, which the agency estimates will total between $3.3 billion and $5.2 billion, and said that the FCC should have waited to allow Congress to ensure the Commission has the necessary authority.
But Republican Commissioners said that the agency has the authority to impose the relocation payment mandate and mocked the suggestion that the Commission should wait for congressional action.
Small satellite operators (SSOs) said today they would challenge the order in court, while Intelsat S.A. said it would “preserve all options to ensure our company is treated fairly and to protect our spectrum rights.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also indicated that the final order may modify the proposed share that satellite operators will get if they meet clearing deadlines, although Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said that any changes were minor. Mr. Pai said the item will be released “early next week.”
As proposed in the draft order circulated order this month (TR Daily, Feb. 7), Intelsat would receive 50% of the $9.7 billion in accelerated relocation payments, while SES S.A. would get 41% and Eutelsat S.A., Telesat Canada, and Star One would receive the rest. Intelsat argued that it should instead get between 60% and 67% of the payments, and it has suggested that the order as drafted exceeded the FCC’s authority.
SES said it should get the same percentage as Intelsat, but SES and Telesat also told the FCC that they would accept the accelerated relocation payments proposed in the draft order. The jockeying came as Intelsat split with other members of the C-Band Alliance, suggesting that the CBA was being dissolved. SES and Telesat said it was not and that Intelsat had violated an agreement by the CBA members in forming the group.
“Intelsat made a number of constructive suggestions for edits to the order based on the release of the initial draft that we were able to incorporate into the final version,” Mr. Pai told reporters after today’s meeting. “However, we did not believe that the record supported significantly increasing Intelsat’s accelerated relocation payment.”
“I don’t think there were substantial changes” in the allocation of accelerated relocation payments among carriers, Mr. O’Rielly told reporters.
As to whether significant changes were made in the final version of the order, Donald Stockdale, chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, told reporters that the item “reflects or responds to” the large number of ex parte filings made after the draft was circulated. Mr. O’Rielly said most changes were “technical.”
In the report and order, which was adopted along with a proposed order of modification in GN docket 18-122, the FCC approved an auction of 280 MHz of the 3.7-3.98 GHz band. Another 20 MHz would be reserved for a guard band.
“Under the Report and Order, eligible space station operators will be able to receive accelerated relocation payments totaling $9.7 billion if they commit to, and succeed in, clearing the spectrum early. To be eligible for Phase I payments, operators must clear 120 megahertz of spectrum (3.7-3.82 GHz) in 46 Partial Economic Areas by December 5, 2021. To be eligible for Phase II payments, they must clear the remaining 180 megahertz of spectrum (3.82-4.0 GHz) by December 5, 2023; new flexible-use licensees will be responsible for these payments as well as reasonable relocation costs,” the FCC noted in a news release. The deadlines were modified a bit from the Sept. 30, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2023, deadlines in the draft order.
“The FCC is creating a Relocation Payment Clearinghouse to manage this process as well as oversee relocation funds available to incumbents. The FCC is also creating a Relocation Coordinator to migrate incumbent earth stations that receive content from space station operators to ensure uninterrupted service during and following the transition,” the FCC news release added. “The FCC also adopted service and technical rules for the flexible-use licensees and rules that require incumbent fixed microwave services licensees to relocate their point-to-point links to other bands by December 5, 2023.”
A separate FCC news release on the rules for Auction 107 noted that it “seeks comment on proposed upfront payment and minimum opening bid amounts for 5,684 new flexible-use overlay licenses. It also proposes to establish two categories of spectrum blocks in each region: five 20-megahertz blocks in the lower 100 megahertz (3.7–3.8 GHz) and nine 20-megahertz blocks in the remaining 180 megahertz (3.8–3.98 GHz). In addition, the Public Notice proposes bidding credit caps of $25 million for small businesses and $10 million for rural service providers, as well as a $10 million cap on the overall amount of bidding credits that a small business bidder may apply to winning licenses in smaller markets.
“The auction as proposed would use an ascending clock auction design,” the news release added. “First, the clock phase would allow bidding on generic blocks in each geographic area in successive clock bidding rounds. Second, the assignment phase would allow clock phase winning bidders to bid for frequency-specific license assignments. The Public Notice also outlines pre-auction rules to ensure anonymous bidding and limited information procedures.”
In her statement, Commissioner Rosenworcel suggested that the order was wrong on three grounds.
“First, this decision is wrong on the law,” she said. “Section 309(j) of the Communications Act sets forth the procedures for this agency to hold a spectrum auction. It requires that all deposits the FCC may require to bid in an auction, as well as all proceeds from the use of an auction, are deposited in the United States Treasury. Consistent with this rule, under the FCC’s tried-and-true Emerging Technologies framework, the agency may require new entrants to privately negotiate with incumbents and pay their reasonable relocation expenses. This very specific framework has not only been used in the past, it has been blessed by courts that have reviewed our auction proposals.
“But that’s not the framework we adopt here no matter how this decision tries to dress it up and say otherwise,” Ms. Rosenworcel continued. “The Emerging Technologies framework is a voluntary and market-based approach to spectrum clearing. It offers new licenses the option to pay for faster access and capitalizes on the fact that a new entrant has better information about the value of relocation and an incumbent has better information about the cost. This asymmetry of information creates incentives for parties to engage in strategic bargaining, increasing the likelihood that a fair and efficient agreement can be reached. However here, with a legal sleight of hand, the FCC takes what must be voluntary and makes it mandatory. We force C-band auction winners to pay nearly $10 billion to incumbent satellite operators over and above their relocation costs. There is no cite to any legal authority or precedent that allows us to do so.
“Moreover, we pluck that amount of payment out of thin air in a manner that does not reflect how market transactions work,” Ms. Rosenworcel added. “That puts what we do here fundamentally at odds with both the Emerging Technologies framework and Section 309(j). Indeed, where Congress previously authorized the FCC to require similar payments in the context of an incentive auction, it required the agency to use a competitive reverse auction to facilitate price discovery and then give forward auction participants the choice to pay it. Nor do we square our decision with the court’s finding in Teledesic LLC v. FCC that any voluntary incentive payment must be proportionate to the cost of providing replacement facilities. There is no attempt here to explain how the acceleration payment is tied at all to facilitating access to the C-band — beyond placating the largest incumbents. All of this means that this decision forces auction winners to make an arbitrary payment that reduces the proceeds the government would otherwise realize at auction.”
“Second, this decision is wrong on the economics,” Ms. Rosenworcel argued. “Comb through this decision and you will not find a rational basis for the $9.7 billion we are set to give away in this repurposing of the C-band. It’s not the result of data-driven decision-making. At best, it’s back-of-the envelope math. It looks a lot like an effort to justify backroom deals and promised payoffs. That’s not the kind of decisions a federal agency should be making. That’s a question more appropriately answered by Congress or the markets.”
“Next, the FCC tackles the relocation costs of the transition. It ticks through all the best guesses in the record. The C-Band Alliance estimates that the total cost to clear 300 megahertz in the contiguous United States would be $2.8 billion. Eutelsat estimates $3.5 billion. ACA puts the number closer to $6.1 billion. So what does the office we set up to do this analysis think? We don’t know. Because instead of doing the work ourselves we just go halfsies and pick a range in the middle,” the Commissioner said.
“Finally, it’s hard to square our economic analysis with our decision to dismiss pre-auction aggregation limits, which could limit 5G competition in the future,” she added.
“Third, this decision is wrong on policy. With today’s action the FCC substitutes its will for the will of Congress. By acting unilaterally this the agency is not only exceeding its authority under the law, it is denying the legislative branch the ability to produce a statute that gets us where we want to go on 5G and mid-band spectrum. It also denies us all the ability to take the funds from the auction of these public airwaves and put them to broader public purpose than those contemplated in the existing statute,” Ms. Rosenworcel argued. “Working with Congress we can use the billions of dollars in revenues this auction could raise to do the very infrastructure projects this country so desperately needs.”
“We must seize this great opportunity,” Mr. Starks said. “But in its haste to make this spectrum available for new wireless terrestrial uses, the majority has over-stretched our legal precedent and entered into a deal that will take money from American taxpayers to placate foreign satellite operators who may not even keep up their end of the bargain. I’m concerned that today’s order ultimately will most benefit these satellite operators and the largest wireless carriers, at the expense of both competition and the American taxpayer.”
He added that he is “glad that we have chosen to conduct a public auction. But I must object to the majority’s response to the satellite operators’ demands. To be clear, I recognize that the threat of litigation and/or bankruptcy is real and could delay the availability of this important spectrum band. I also recognize the Emerging Technologies line of cases, in which the Commission created an incentive regime to encourage incumbent licensees to expedite spectrum reallocation efforts. But those cases make it clear that, while the Commission can require winning bidders to contribute to a fund for the benefit of the incumbent licensees, those mandatory payments are limited to reasonable relocation costs. In those proceedings, any payments to encourage incumbents to expedite their departure from the affected spectrum beyond ordinary relocation costs resulted from voluntary negotiations between the bidders and the incumbents, subject to the Commission’s oversight.”
Mr. Starks said that “the approach in today’s order creates a potential spectrum policy headache that I fear we will be addressing for years to come. As I mentioned earlier, the age of ‘easy’ spectrum allocation decisions is over. For the foreseeable future, this agency will have to re-distribute underutilized spectrum away from incumbents – both federal and non-federal -- to make it available for more efficient use. Requiring billions of dollars in mandatory payments to the incumbents here will only encourage demands for similar treatment from similarly situated incumbents. This may not be especially problematic for large, well-funded bidders, but the additional expense of mandatory contributions towards an ‘accelerated relocation’ fund may place bidders with fewer resources at a significant financial disadvantage.”
He also complained that the order does not explain how it arrived at $9.7 billion in accelerated relocation payments and bemoaned the decision to not impose spectrum aggregation limits.
“During this proceeding, I made it clear that my decision would be based on four guiding principles,” Mr. Pai said in his statement on the item. “First, the FCC must make available a significant amount of C-band spectrum for 5G. Second, we must do so quickly. Third, we must generate revenue for the federal government. And fourth, we must ensure that the services that are currently delivered using the C-band can continue to be delivered to the American people. The Order we adopt today advances each of these principles.”
“Why are accelerated relocation payments necessary? The answer is simple: speed. We want satellite operators to vacate the lower portion of the C-band quickly. And this transition will be much faster if we align the incentives of satellite operators with the incentives of wireless providers who want expedited access to that spectrum,” he said. “To properly align those incentives, we are giving satellite operators the opportunity to receive accelerated relocation payments of $9.7 billion if they meet our accelerated clearing milestones. Now, some believe that these payments are too small. Others have criticized them as being too large. But as Goldilocks might say, I believe we’ve gotten it just right. We arrived at this figure by working with our economists and other expert staff to determine the value to auction winners of having satellite operators clear the spectrum in an accelerated timeframe and to approximate the size of payments that would be made in the private marketplace absent holdout and free-rider problems.”
“With respect to this principle of revenue for the federal government, it’s important to make a couple of points about accelerated relocation payments. First, they will be made by wireless carriers, not the FCC and not the American taxpayer. And second, to the extent they impact the proceeds of the auction at all, they are likely to increase those proceeds. That’s because without a strong incentive for satellite operators to cooperate, it will take years longer to clear this spectrum, dramatically reducing the value of this spectrum opportunity to wireless bidders,” Mr. Pai argued. “It’s like repainting your house before you sell it; yes, there are costs to doing that, but the costs are more than offset by the higher sales price. And our conservative approach here means the costs of accelerated relocation are easily outweighed by the benefits to the Treasury (not to mention the public at large).”
“The substance of today’s Order is sound. But as to its timing, there are some who argue that we should wait — indefinitely. They complain that we are refusing to sit on our hands and wait for Congress to legislate. It’s at once amusing and astounding that some making this criticism are the very same people who have previously complained that the agency isn’t moving quickly enough on mid-band spectrum,” Mr. Pai said. “For some, the imperative of criticizing the Commission no matter the issue appears to outweigh the importance of holding positions that bear even a semblance of internal consistency. We see this tactic of diametrically opposed talk and action a lot in Washington. Some in the Beltway quietly accommodate themselves to it; others gleefully praise it as savvy. But the American people see it for what it is: a pretzel, not a principle.”
“The Communications Act requires that the FCC act in the public interest and gives us ample legal authority to move forward with this public auction,” Mr. Pai argued. “Section 316 of the Act allows us to modify the licenses of C-band incumbents. Section 309 of the Act authorizes a public auction of the lower 280 megahertz of the C-band for flexible-use, overlay licenses. Section 303 of the Act gives us the authority to set new technical rules for the band. And section 303(r) of the Act lets us require the winners of the public auction to pay for the relocation of the band’s incumbents under our Emerging Technologies framework.”
Mr. Pai also said that “this is likely the most complicated proceeding any of us have ever seen,” and in response to a question about whether Intelsat will declare bankruptcy, thwarting clearing of the spectrum, he said he believes the accelerated relocation payments will convince the satellite operators to clear the spectrum by the accelerated deadlines.
“This has been a tremendously complicated and important policy puzzle to solve,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr. “It involves nearly every industry that the Commission regulates, and the outcome was not obvious. The best minds at this agency ground away at this for two years, relying on all of our capabilities: engineering, economics, and law. The Chairman and staff deserve immense credit and our gratitude for, if nothing else, their endurance. After all of that, I think we landed this item in the perfect spot. We will clear 300 MHz, which is more than incumbents ever thought they could give up and is enough to enable a number of providers to offer truly mobile 5G services. Americans will start benefiting from these services next year with a full clearing coming in 2023 — again, pushing the speedometer to its limit. And we will do all of this using the FCC’s tried and true auction process, using rules that are fair and known, and which will result in tens of billions of dollars being returned to the American taxpayer.”
Mr. Carr added, “You might know that we got it right, ironically, by the grumbles we hear from both sides. You didn’t send enough money to the Treasury; you sent too much money to the Treasury. The equipment you’re providing to incumbent operators is gold-plated; the equipment you’re providing isn’t good enough. On mid-band, it’s ‘go, go, go,’ but when the politics change, it’s ‘slow, slow, slow.’ And on and on. At the end of a long and difficult road to compromise — and that’s certainly the road we’ve been on — sometimes a little criticism from opposing sides is a sign that you landed in just the right place.”
Mr. Carr also thanked his “colleagues for agreeing to move up the election and clearing dates so that this spectrum can be used for 5G as quickly as possible.”
“I thank Chairman Pai for moving this critical item, when the prior Commission did not, and crafting an order that is generally in line with my first three requirements,” Commissioner O’Rielly said. “While I may have gone down a slightly different path if I had the opportunity, I am pleased that we are clearing 280 megahertz for auction. This landing spot took tremendous effort to achieve, as well as a considerable amount of my time, energy, and patience. But, it was incredibly important because new 5G wireless services are going to need wide channel allocations, and no other band provides as great an opportunity as the C-Band. I also appreciate that the Chairman has committed to making sure that the auction happens this year. Further, if things go as planned, all incumbents should be fully accommodated, with their concerns addressed. I find it highly unlikely that the Commission would turn off popular broadcast and cable programming should the restructuring of this band not be complete by 2025.”
Mr. O’Rielly added, “At the same time, we have all had to deal with the back and forth between industry participants and Hill policy makers about incentive payments and the possible distribution of proceeds. This is unfortunate, as many months were wasted debating whether to even provide an incentive payment to the satellite providers. The reality is that to do otherwise would have doomed this project and undermined decades of spectrum policy. Keep in mind, satellite companies provide valuable services to their contractees but are willing to do more with less — with varying degrees of difficulty — to enable the government to meet its 5G objectives. Compensation was therefore always going to part of the equation. In the end, almost everyone came around to this thinking — even if they may not agree with the exact funding level. Further, I believe that we have the authority to compensate incumbents for their reasonable expenses and implement the accelerated relocation payments separate and apart from our auction process using our Emerging Technologies framework.”
Messrs. O’Rielly and Carr told reporters that they believe that the item will withstand any legal challenges. “I’m very confident with where we landed in terms of our legal authority,” said Mr. Carr, a former FCC general counsel.
Commenting on today’s order, a spokesperson for Intelsat said, “The issuance of the FCC’s final order in the C-band proceeding represents the culmination of a rulemaking proceeding that began over two years ago. Throughout this proceeding, Intelsat, a proudly American company, has sought to enable a speedy transition of spectrum to accelerate the deployment of 5G services in the U.S. while protecting the nation’s television and radio distribution system. We look forward to reviewing the final order, once issued, to determine the full impact on our company. As we do so we will preserve all options to ensure our company is treated fairly and to protect our spectrum rights.”
In a joint statement, SES and Telesat said, congratulated the FCC on adopting its order. “This momentous decision is a win-win-win for U.S. leadership in 5G, American taxpayers, and the nearly 120 million U.S. households that rely on the C-band for their cable and broadcast programming,” they said. “SES and Telesat look forward to reviewing the Commission’s order in detail and working with the FCC and all stakeholders to accomplish an efficient and expeditious transition of the C-band while protecting critical satellite services.”
Eutelsat had no comment on today’s FCC action.
On behalf of SSOs, ABS Global Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Frownfelter said, ““This Order is fatally flawed by its misinterpretations of the Communications Act, and by its numerous arbitrary and capricious conclusions. The Small Satellite Operators (SSOs) are going to be harmed by the unlawful revocation of the right to use 60% of their licensed C-band spectrum, and we will ask the courts to overturn this Order and to instruct the FCC to start the entire process again.”
In addition to changing the accelerated relocation payment allocation, parties in recent days urged the Commission to modify transition procedures as well as some technical and auction rules.
There were mixed views from Congress on today’s FCC action.
“We still don’t know how the chairman arrived at his $15 billion gift. Why not surrender $14 billion to the foreign satellite giants, who don’t even own the airwaves they’ve been using? Why not $16 billion?” asked Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s financial services and general government subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC. “We’re in real need of transparency here. Shelling out billions for airwaves we already own is no way to handle taxpayer money — especially when taxpayers want those dollars to support rural broadband. If the foreign satellite firms have it their way, Americans won’t see auction money go to broadband deployment. We learned that lesson in the 1930s when power companies wanted to leave rural America in the dark. People in rural American, though, are just as American as anyone else.
“It’s telling that, even after the FCC decided — in a divided vote — to give away $15 billion to foreign operations, those companies still aren’t happy,” Mr. Kennedy added. “I suppose they’re angry their plan to scarf up all proceeds from the potential $70 billion auction didn’t work out. People say appetites grow by indulgence, and it’s true: These foreign satellite firms want all four feet and their snout in the taxpayer trough. The FCC shouldn’t be helping them.”
Sens. Kennedy, Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), and Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) introduced the Spectrum Management and Reallocation for Taxpayers Act (SMART Act) (S 3246) last month that would reserve $5 billion for the relocation expenses of incumbents but only $1 billion for incentive payments (TR Daily, Jan. 28).
“Making more mid-band spectrum available for commercial use is vital to America’s leadership in the race to 5G,” said Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.). “Today’s vote is an important move toward the deployment of next-generation communications technology and providing broadband coverage for Americans who have been on the wrong side of the digital divide. I thank Chairman Pai for his efforts to expand access to 5G.”
“Today’s vote at the FCC is a critical step toward the United States winning the race to 5G,” said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), chairman of the communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee “As recognized in my MOBILE NOW Act, this prime mid-band spectrum will help enable the widespread deployment of 5G networks across the country, including in the rural areas of my home state of South Dakota. I appreciate Chairman Pai’s leadership in bringing this vote forward.”
In December, the Senate Commerce Committee approved a modified version of the 5G Spectrum Act of 2019 (S 2881) (TR Daily, Dec. 11, 2019). Under the bill, which was introduced by Sens. Wicker and Thune, at least 50% of the gross proceeds of a C-band auction would have to be deposited into the U.S. Treasury if the auction raised up to $40 billion, at least 75% for the next $10 billion, and at least 90% for the remaining proceeds.
House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R., Ore.) and communications and technology subcommittee ranking member Bob Latta (R., Ohio) said, “The U.S. must win the race to 5G. It’s simple: either we lead the way, bring along other like-minded countries, and write the rules on advanced technologies, or we have them dictated to us by China. We know that only the first option will be written with free-market principles in mind. I’m encouraged Chairman Pai and the FCC share this mindset and I commend their progress on the C-band auction order. The keys to unlocking 5G are to get spectrum to the market quickly, reduce regulatory barriers, and create incentives for groups to build the technology out. This C-band auction order is important progress toward making critical mid-band spectrum available for 5G services. The FCC’s action today will help ensure that the United States continues to lead China in technology development and innovation.”
Mr. Walden has been in discussions with communications subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D., Pa.) on bipartisan legislation to fund priorities from the auction such as rural broadband.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) “remains concerned that the questionable legal basis for the satellite incentives will likely result in litigation, which will delay deployment of 5G. This vote reiterates the need for legislation to spur the rapid rollout of 5G and ensure all Americans benefit from the auction of the public’s airwaves,” said a spokesman for the panel.
Other industry entities generally welcomed today’s FCC action, while public interest advocates raised concerns.
“We applaud the Commission for bringing essential mid-band spectrum to auction. Thanks to the efforts of Chairman Pai, we’re well on our way to making 2020 the Year of Mid-Band,” said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.
“I applaud the Commission for voting in favor of the C-band auction rules. C-band spectrum provides incredible potential for all carriers – both large and small – to deploy next-generation technologies, and a public auction of this invaluable resource is certainly the right decision,” said Steve Berry, president and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association. “An auction of 280 megahertz will go a long way to helping meet consumers’ insatiable demand for more. While we would have liked to have seen a limit on spectrum aggregation to further promote competition, we commend the Commission for its work on this enormously complex issue and look forward to a robust auction in the near future.”
Verizon Communications, Inc., Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg said, “Today marks another huge step forward as the U.S. aims to keep its global lead in the deployment of next-generation 5G networks. The FCC clearly understands the need to move swiftly to ensure that critical wireless spectrum is quickly made available so that we can build the networks of the future. 5G services fueled by mid-band spectrum will enable new innovations, vast economic opportunities and game-changing products and technologies for all American consumers and businesses. Verizon fully supports the FCC’s actions. We congratulate Chairman Pai and the FCC on this impressive accomplishment.”
“Today’s vote is another major step toward unleashing mid-band spectrum for 5G. Making the C-Band available for mobile flexible use will provide a vital resource for deploying next generation wireless networks and securing U.S. 5G leadership. We look forward to reading the details of the item and continuing to work with the Commission to ensure a successful auction and effective transition,” said Joan Marsh, executive vice president-regulatory & state external affairs for AT&T, Inc.
“ACA Connects praises Chairman Pai and the FCC on the adoption of an Order today that strikes an appropriate balance between clearing a large portion of the C-Band for 5G use and protecting incumbent users of the spectrum,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka. “This proceeding turned out to be one of the most challenging undertakings of any FCC Chairman’s tenure, and Chairman Pai and his team proved once again they know how to get things done.”
Mr. Polka added, “The FCC's plan is consistent with the core objectives of ACA Connects’ advocacy throughout this proceeding, incorporating key aspects of the ACA Connects Coalition’s groundbreaking 5G Plus Plan, which served as the primary alternative to the satellite industry’s at-the-time leading, but now defunct, plan, and shone a path to today’s solution. Like the 5G Plus plan, the final Order repurposes a significant amount of C-Band spectrum. It relies on a transparent FCC-led auction that will provide billions in revenue to the U.S. Treasury. Most important to ACA Connects members, the Order allows relocation funds to be used by pay-TV providers on fiber delivery solutions, which is consistent with the future needs of these operators, 5G carriers, and the public.”
“The Commission’s actions today on C-band and 3.5 GHz spectrum represent an important milestone in enabling mid-band resources for next-generation wireless networks,” NCTA said. “NCTA applauds the Commission’s efforts to balance the need for more wireless broadband spectrum with a commitment to protect video programming delivery systems that today rely on the C-band to transmit cable and broadcast content to more than 100 million American households. NCTA also welcomes the adoption of auction procedures for the 3.5 GHz band that embrace bidding on right-size licenses to set Auction 105 up for success. We urge the Commission to turn its attention now to the mid-band pipeline for unlicensed use, and look forward to near-term action on the 5.9 and 6 GHz bands.”
Charter Communications, Inc., said it “commends the FCC and Chairman Pai for today’s actions on C-band and 3.5 GHz spectrum, both of which recognize the importance of making more mid-band spectrum available to meet consumers’ growing connectivity needs. The Commission’s action to make important C-Band spectrum available through a public auction will enable and promote deployment of advanced wireless services, including 5G, while also protecting the ability for video providers to deliver video services to customers.”
“The FCC’s vote today is a great success for the future of 5G in America. We cannot afford to wait any longer to roll out 5G nationwide in America and the approval of a public auction of the spectrum is a great step to unleashing American innovation,” said former congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of 5G Action Now. “China has a head start on cornering 5G, but with this vote we are one step closer to ensuring we don’t lose the race. Getting 5G right is critical to our country’s long term economic and national security and I applaud the FCC’s and Chairman Pai’s actions today.”
Louis Peraertz, vice president-policy for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, said that although “the FCC did not allocate any spectrum for sharing in the C-band – something that technically can happen as proven by unrefuted technical evidence and an independent study, as well as real-world experience in the vastly more complex CBRS band – the FCC also did not abandon the idea. Consequently, it remains a viable option to alleviate the crunch for unlicensed spectrum, one which could quickly and cheaply bring approximately 80 million, mostly rural Americans online. We urge the Commission to take up study of this matter at its earliest possible convenience.”
“In over four decades of closely observing, and occasionally participating in, the formulation of communications law and policy, the C-Band proceeding is, without doubt, one of the most complicated the agency has had to tackle. And in light of the acknowledged need for the U.S. to free up more mid-band spectrum to support the advent of super-fast 5G networks, it is one of the most consequential too,” said Free State Foundation President Randolph May. “While surely there will be much quibbling about various facets of the FCC’s decision, to my mind, Chairman Pai and his Republican colleagues deserve much credit for proposing a sound way forward. Absent the willingness to consider somewhat novel approaches to address the need to repurpose this mid-band spectrum sooner rather than later, I suspect we’d still be stuck in neutral — and in today’s technologically dynamic and competitive marketplace environment, being stuck in neutral doesn’t advance overall consumer welfare or the national interest.”
Steve Pociask, president and CEO of the American Consumer Institute, said, “The FCC’s decision to move forward with the C-band auction before the end of 2020, and provide incumbents with incentive payments to clear bands by 2021, is a win for America in the race to 5G. Mid-band spectrum is crucial to delivering 5G services to consumers across the country. Today’s decision by the FCC is a win for American consumers looking forward to reaping the benefits of 5G technology and services. Thank you to the FCC and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for recognizing the importance of this vote, and recognizing that auctions on mid-band spectrum must take place soon for the U.S. to remain competitive in the race to 5G.”
But Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, said, “The FCC’s Republican majority voted to award $9.7 billion in windfall payments to foreign satellite companies for public airwaves don’t need and never paid to use. These unprecedented incentive payments will not only reduce public auction revenue dollar per dollar, they also exceed the FCC’s legal authority and set a dangerous precedent that encourages licensees sitting on unused spectrum to resist reallocations to valuable new uses. Only Congress has the authority to appropriate public revenue for incentive payments, as it did in 2012 to encourage some local TV stations to give up spectrum, while requiring mot stations to change channels without receiving such payments.”
“While Public Knowledge is pleased that Chairman Pai has committed to going forward with a public auction on C-band, there are still a number of issues with the current Order. The proposed Order does not do enough to protect competition in the 5G marketplace, allow for flexible use of the band for rural broadband through point to multipoint sharing, or limit the windfall going to the satellite companies,” said Bertram Lee, policy counsel at Public Knowledge. “Given the importance of the C-band, Congress should focus on getting C-band right rather than making the spectrum available fast. We hope that our concerns on spectrum sharing, auction proceeds, and competition are heard by Congress and reflected in future legislation. Congress needs to make the proceeds from C-band available for rural broadband deployment and not give the satellite companies billions of dollars that would otherwise go to closing the digital divide.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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