FCC C-band plan draws mixed reaction from Congress

WASHINGTON — A Federal Communications Fee plan to public sale satellite tv for pc C-band spectrum with out ready for laws garnered combined reactions from U.S. lawmakers who oversee the FCC. 

On Thursday, Ajit Pai, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Fee, outlined the company’s plan to start an public sale Dec. 8 to license the spectrum to 5G community operators. That plan contains bidder funds to satellite tv for pc operators price as much as $14.7 billion to hurry the method and canopy satellite tv for pc transition prices. 

Three out of 5 FCC commissioners — Pai, Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr — assist the plan, giving it sufficient votes to cross throughout an open assembly scheduled for Feb. 28. 

Pai’s announcement drew speedy reward from the Republican leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee and its FCC oversight subcommittee.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the subcommittee chairman, mentioned the FCC’s proposal “displays the ideas” of a invoice the pair launched final yr that might require the U.S. treasury to obtain not less than half of any C-band public sale proceeds, however would place no cap on what satellite tv for pc operators may obtain. 

Wicker and Thune’s invoice, often known as the 5G Spectrum Act, cleared the Senate Commerce Committee however appeared to stall when it did not garner bipartisan assist.

Wicker and Thune’s counterparts within the Home of Representatives, the place Democrats maintain the bulk, took problem with the satellite tv for pc incentive funds and criticized Pai’s plan to push forward with the C-band public sale with out ready for Congress to impose its personal pointers. 

“We consider that this proposal solely reiterates the necessity for laws,” Home Vitality and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman of the communications and expertise subcommittee, mentioned in a joint assertion Feb. 6. 

“The questionable authorized foundation for the satellite tv for pc incentives will doubtless end in litigation, which can delay the deployment of 5G,” Pallone and Doyle mentioned. “Furthermore, with out Congressional motion, this public sale is not going to fund vital public security infrastructure or bridge the digital divide.”

Pai’s proposal for sharing public sale proceeds with the satellite tv for pc trade can be a sticking level for Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the FCC’s finances. Kennedy was one of many main critics of the Intelsat, SES and Telesat Canada’s earlier proposal to let the satellite tv for pc trade conduct a non-public public sale to switch C-band spectrum to 5G suppliers. 

“My obligation, and the FCC’s obligation, is to the American taxpayers,” Kennedy mentioned in a Feb. 6 assertion. “The C-Band spectrum belongs to them, and the 5G alternatives it represents are additionally theirs.”

Kennedy mentioned he disapproves of how a lot cash the FCC is prepared to make accessible to satellite tv for pc operators — as much as $5 billion to proceed their providers with much less spectrum and as much as $9.7 billion in incentives to speed up clearing C-band airwaves for mobile 5G providers. 

“Sadly, the sum Chairman Pai instructed giving to international satellite tv for pc corporations is far too excessive, and it’s extremely unfair to these taxpayers,” Kennedy mentioned. “We shouldn’t be within the enterprise of spearheading Luxembourg bailouts when there are cities in Louisiana and throughout the nation with out entry to broadband service.”

Intelsat and SES, the 2 corporations with the lion’s share of C-band satellite tv for pc capability over the US, are Luxembourg corporations, although Intelsat is headquartered in Tysons Nook, Virginia. Intelsat and SES plan to purchase not less than eight satellites from U.S. producers to exchange capability misplaced by the spectrum switch. 

Pai mentioned Feb. 6 that the FCC views the inducement funds as vital to make sure spectrum will get transferred sooner than the fee may by itself. The FCC has the authorized authority to conduct the public sale, and must liberate 280 megahertz of C-band rapidly to make sure U.S. management in 5G, he mentioned. 

“Some argue that the FCC ought to await Congress to legislate on the C-band,” Pai mentioned. “However should you consider that advancing American management in 5G is vital, should you consider it’s a precedence to make 5G spectrum accessible rapidly, and should you consider that mid-band spectrum is very vital, ready for Congress to behave first isn’t the most effective technique. Actually, some may name it the absence of a technique.”

Kennedy launched a invoice final month with Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that might cap the satellite tv for pc trade’s share of public sale proceeds at $6 billion and put the remainder towards public use comparable to paying down the nationwide debt and modernizing 911 emergency providers. 

Kennedy’s invoice, the Spectrum Administration and Reallocation for Taxpayers (SMART) Act, was referred in late January to the Senate Commerce Committee. Its possibilities of clearing the committee seem slim now that Wicker and Thune have introduced their assist for the FCC’s plan.

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