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CBA faces opposition from Google

February 7, 2019

The C-Band Alliance (CBA), which is trying to restructure 200 MHz of satellite spectrum over the US, is facing additional negative pressures, including Google, cable operator Charter Communications and a few other lobby groups including the American Cable Association (ACA).

Potentially, the ACA’s objection could have merit in that its members are drawn from the USA’s rural heartland and they are concerned that a reduction of C-band spectrum could lead to higher costs for their members and potentially a reduction in available channels.

Ross Lieberman, ACA’s SVP for government affairs, said that he had not been able to get clear answers from the CBA. “We haven’t opposed the [CBA’s proposed] private sale outright,” Lieberman stated. “Our primary concern is just being made whole. And the [CBA] just hasn’t done that over many months. We are led to believe it is not going to be done, and it pushes us into a position where the FCC may be the best way to handle it.”

However, the CBA’s Preston Padden argued vigorously with Lieberman at a Washington meeting organised by the New America non-profit lobby group on February 5th (“The Great Airwaves Robbery”) and which claimed that the CBA’s satellite membership could be in receipt of $15-$40 billion in their quest for a restructuring.

Padden was forthright in his comments to Lieberman, saying: “Ross, we have told you 100 times we are going to cover all your members’ costs. We’re putting it in writing, we’re putting it in contracts. But you came to see us and said you would go away for $200,000 per cable system. There’s a world for that: It’s a shakedown.”

Not helping to keep the temperature down were frequent comments that the four members of the CBA are “foreign”, which technically is correct in that Intelsat and SES are officially domiciled in Luxembourg, Eutelsat is French and Telesat is Canadian. However, Intelsat’s corporate headquarters is at Tysons Corner, just outside the Washington DC ‘beltway’, while the SES frequencies are part of the ‘Americom’ satellite fleet bought by SES from General Electric back in 2001 and with a significant HQ in Princeton, New Jersey.

Padden alleged that New America, the conference organisers, of being a well-known front group for Google. Google’s Snr Policy Counsel, Staci Pies, speaking on a panel, said that the CBA’s proposals would end up in so much litigation that any time-to-market advantage it had would be lost.

However, Padden had the last word where he later tweeted: “Not only did New America not invite CBA (or any of the many parties supporting our proposal) to be on their one-sided C-band panel, when I spoke from the audience they handed me a dead mic!  I guess that’s one way to try to win the debate.”

The FCC will arbitrate on the CBA’s scheme later this spring/early summer.

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