Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Greg Gianforte (R-MT), introduced the C-BAND Act to speed deployment of next-generation wireless networks. Public Knowledge applauds the bill, which would facilitate repurposing 200-to-300 megahertz of the 3.7-4.2 gigahertz band for mobile and fixed wireless broadband, while also ensuring proceeds from auctioning the public’s airwaves flow to the public.
The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Policy Director at Public Knowledge:
“The bipartisan C-BAND Act requires the Federal Communications Commission repurpose and auction a significant amount of C-Band spectrum quickly and efficiently, and in a manner that protects existing satellite customers. 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.
“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. As Senator Kennedy highlighted last week in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the C-Band proposal creates significant and unnecessary risk of litigation and delay in freeing up these airwaves.
“Although satellite providers have none of the FCC’s experience or expertise in running a complex spectrum auction, they claim their proposed private auction would clear the spectrum more quickly for commercial use. Unfortunately, the Commission has wasted more than a year considering the private auction proposal instead of moving quickly and decisively to free up C-Band spectrum with a public auction. The C-BAND Act would stop this unnecessary delay and direct the Commission to begin work immediately to make the C-Band available for wireless broadband services, ensuring the C-Band spectrum is used efficiently and serves the public interest, while also compensating the public for use of the public’s airwaves.”