Advanced Television

CBA gets tough with US lawmakers

November 8, 2019

By Chris Forrester

The C-Band Alliance on November 7th sent a strongly-worded seven-page letter to two senior members of the US House Sub-committee on Communications & Technology. The letter starts politely enough, telling Chairman Michael Doyle and Ranking Member Robert Latta that it wanted to correct some misstatements.

But the message soon became blunt saying, in effect, ‘hands off our spectrum’ and stressing that the decision the FCC has to make is not simply between a public (that is FCC managed) or private (with FCC supervision) auction of C-band spectrum.

The letter highlights what would be simply unlawful if the FCC were to “confiscate” the CBA members’ spectrum: “Some witnesses [to the Committee hearings] have claimed that the CBA’s members do not ‘own’ their spectrum and imply that CBA members have no protectable rights over their spectrum.  In reality, the CBA’s members all have legally enforceable and protected FCC spectrum license or market access rights, and invested many billions of dollars maintaining their licenses, launching satellites, connecting earth stations, and undertaking decades of investments bringing video distribution services of unmatched quality to the continental United States.”

The CBA’s letter explains how Intelsat paid $1 billion for many Loral satellites in 2001, and another $3.2 billion when it bought PanAmSat in 2006. SES paid $5 billion when it bought GE Americom in 2001. In other words, these key CBA members have invested heavily in building up their US spectrum.

“Under the Communications Act, satellite operators have a fundamental and enforceable right to service transmissions free from interference.  Accordingly, the FCC is obliged to protect the service transmissions of CBA members and lacks power to unilaterally authorize new terrestrial mobile operations in the band, which would cause harmful interference to incumbent services.”

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