The C-Band Alliance submitted a 39-page and extremely detailed ‘Public Notice’ filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on July 3rd that comprehensively argues its case for a ‘market-based approach’ for its proposed restructuring of C-band over the US for 5G. The filing also focuses on the rights – or otherwise – of C-band Earth Station operators.
The filing robustly answers criticism and rival suggestions and also dismisses “unhelpful” suggestions that certain other satellite operators should share in any potential ‘windfall’ from the sale of spectrum. The filing, it says, “clears up these misconceptions” with chapter and verse references and detailed arguments. “Our filing is also clear that the FCC need not worry about the small satellite operators, who, by their own admission, have no customers and no revenues in the US.”
The CBA says: “Any effort to have the FCC reclaim C-band spectrum without the consent of the C-Band
Alliance would run headlong into statutory and constitutional limits on the agency’s authority. The Communications Act, reinforced by the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution, authorises the FCC to modify transmission licenses only where the modification is in the public interest and the change is not “fundamental.” Here, the record is unmistakably clear that the interference caused by the authorisation of new terrestrial mobile services in the C-band would eliminate entirely the existing FSS service transmissions in the affected portion of the band.”
The CBA also argues that any proposal that would require the FCC to hold its own version of an auction of satellite spectrum for Earth stations “is unlawful” and besides would take an “inordinately long time” to conclude.
One powerful argument from objectors has been that any cash ‘windfall’ achieved by an auction would flow to “foreign” operators. The CBA rebuts this saying that their members have an entitlement under World Trade Organisation agreements.
The CBA, in an accompanying document, stresses that its comments show that receive-only antennas have no legal right to interference protection; rather, they benefit from the interference protection that satellite transmissions enjoy. “This is because the Communications Act only protects ‘transmissions’ through the issuance of ‘licences,’ which receive-only earth stations do not have. Our filing further explains that, because they do not hold licenses, receive-only antenna owners are not eligible to participate in an incentive auction, because the Commission’s incentive auction authority specifically applies to ‘licensees’.”
“The CBA proposes a fully-fledged, “whole package” solution that addresses every aspect of a very complex transition process. This solution includes compensation that CBA members need in order to cover the considerable costs of a transition (which includes significant changes to infrastructure in which the satellite operators have invested billions of dollars over decades). The approach also rewards the CBA members for coming forward with a proactive response to a pressing US policy goal, thereby incentivising licensees in other bands to look for ways to use their spectrum more efficiently and make it available for other services in the public interest of American citizens.