TR Daily O’Rielly Welcomes Movement in C-Band Proceeding
Tuesday, January 21, 2020

O’Rielly Welcomes Movement in C-Band Proceeding

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said today he is pleased to see movement in the FCC’s C-band proceeding and that he believes there is time for FCC staff to complete a draft order that Commissioners can vote on at their Feb. 28 meeting. He also stressed the importance of the Commission’s commencing an auction of the spectrum this year, as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he wants the agency to do.

During a briefing for reporters, Mr. O’Rielly was asked about the C-Band Alliance’s call for the FCC to approve “acceleration payments” equal to 100% of the winning bids in the C-band auction to incentivize incumbent satellite operators to clear a portion of the 3.7-4.2 gigahertz band for terrestrial 5G services within 18 to 36 months (TR Daily, Jan. 16). The CBA suggested the Commission approve a framework where those payments would be made directly by auction winners.

Mr. O’Rielly noted that concerns about compensation to satellite companies “hasn’t been my No. 1 issue,” noting that he has “really been concerned about speed.” But he reiterated that he believes such incentive payments are necessary to ensure the companies participate in the repurposing of 300 megahertz of the 3.7-4.2 gigahertz band, including a 20-MHz guard band, adding, “I don’t want to get into protracted litigation.”

As for how much satellite companies should get, he suggested that the “high-water mark” could be the 50% that would be permitted under the 5G Spectrum Act of 2010 (S 2881), which was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last month (TR Daily, Dec. 11, 2019). But Mr. O’Rielly suggested that somewhere between 30% and 50% might end up being the level of compensation, although he noted there are several types of metrics that the Commission could use. He said he doesn’t know what Mr. Pai plans to propose, but he said he thinks there is time to vote the item at next month’s meeting. “We’ve been talking about these issues for quite a long time,” he added.

The CBA said last week that its accelerated payment compensation proposal is “consistent” with S 2881, which was introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) and Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), chairman of the communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee, because under both proposals, satellite operators would get an amount equal to the amount that could go the U.S. Treasury or other government priorities.

Mr. O’Rielly called the C-band “the easiest of the hard” spectrum proceedings on tap, and he discussed a number of other bands during the 90-minute briefing, including the 2.5 GHz, 3.1-3.55 GHz, 3.5 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 5.9 GHz, and 6 GHz bands.

In the 2.5 GHz band, he said he doesn’t know how many tribes will be interested in seeking spectrum during a special filing window, but he warned that any that do must meet their build-out obligations or the Commission will reclaim their licenses. “It is not an easy business,” he said.

In the 3.1-3.55 GHz band, he said he hopes the top 100 MHz can be made available and complained that the Department of Defense has been reluctant to study repurposing or sharing the rest of the band while seeking to share commercial frequencies. “I think we should be worried about that as a nation in terms of getting enough spectrum to compete domestically and globally in a future wireless world,” he said.

As for the 3.5 GHz band Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), Mr. O’Rielly complained that there has been “backsliding” by DoD in terms of sharing portions of the band because DoD has added additional facilities that it says need protection.

Regarding the 4.9 GHz band, Mr. O’Rielly noted efforts in Congress to clear the way for that band, which has been allocated for public safety use, to be repurposed, while also rescinding a statutory requirement that the T-band be reallocated. S 2881 would address those issues, while also tackling 911 fee diversion.

On the 5.9 GHz band, Mr. O’Rielly said that a $38 million grant program announced by the Department of Transportation last week to help first responders avoid collisions (TR Daily, Jan. 15) doesn’t change his support for an FCC proposal to divide the band up between unlicensed use and auto safety applications. He also said that the proposed framework would address concerns of interference to auto safety usage.

An FCC NPRM, which was adopted over the objections of DoT and some auto safety interests (TR Daily, Dec. 12, 2019), proposes to make the lower 45 MHz of the 5850-5925 MHz band available for unlicensed use and allocate the upper 20 MHz for cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology. The NPRM seeks comment on whether to allocate the remaining 10 MHz to C-V2X or dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology.

Mr. O’Rielly noted that parties have complained that FCC action in the proceeding would lead to more deaths on roadways. “It’s a lot of hyperbole,” he said, “and we’ll see where the record takes us.”

Regarding the 6 GHz band, Mr. O’Rielly said that “I don’t think we’re that far away” from action on making the band available for unlicensed use. As for the licensed use sought by some parties, he said, “I’ve had some concern about what they’ve asked for. … I’m not sure all the pieces add up, from my perspective.”

In another spectrum proceeding, Mr. O’Rielly said the FCC should act on Ligado Networks LLC’s license modification request. “I believe they’re due an answer,” he said. “The decisions here have dragged out.” However, he added, “I’m not exactly sure where we may land.”

Last month, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said that it can’t recommend that the FCC grant Ligado’s request to modify its licenses, citing concerns by the departments of Defense and Transportation and other federal agencies about the impact of the company’s planned broadband network on GPS operations (TR Daily, Dec. 9, 2019).

More broadly on spectrum, Mr. O’Rielly said it’s not a surprise that other federal agencies, including the Defense, Energy, and Education departments, have weighed in at the FCC in spectrum proceedings.

“There are going to be drag-out fights from now on,” he said. “There are no easy issues. We’ve done all the easy lifting.” However, he said that it’s “bizarre” that agencies and other stakeholders don’t understand how the FCC’s processes work.

Mr. O’Rielly was also asked whether he is concerned that consumers will be harmed if Dish Network Corp. doesn’t end up being another nationwide wireless carrier, as envisioned by a settlement agreed to by the Department of Justice, some state attorneys general, and T-Mobile US, Inc., and Sprint Corp. as part of the T-Mobile-Sprint transaction (TR Daily, July 26, 2019). “The market will address those issues,” Mr. O’Rielly replied.

He also said that he is concerned that if other state AGs win a trial in their attempt to block the merger, “I really think it will hamper any type of M&A … in every sector across the board.”

The Commissioner was also asked to weigh in on e-mails that Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, sent Dish cofounder and Chairman Charlie Ergen concerning T-Mobile’s planned acquisition of Sprint.

“Nothing surprises me,” Mr. O’Rielly said. “I’ve just been around too long. … I doubt it had too much influence.” He also said that “I just think it’s all fine” but said he makes a point of separating his FCC and personal communications with parties.

Mr. O’Rielly also said he is writing a letter to West Virginia protesting the state’s diversion of 911 funds. The FCC’s most recent FCC report on such diversions concluded that Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and West Virginia diverted $187 million in 911 fees for other purposes in 2018 (TR Daily, Dec. 19, 2019). “The five states are heavy lifts,” he said. “They all have different excuses.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews Congress SpectrumAllocation WirelessDeployment Satellites PublicSafety

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