C-Band Auction Process Must Continue | Citizens Against Government Waste

C-Band Auction Process Must Continue

The WasteWatcher

U.S. leadership in fifth generation (5G) deployment and technologies is critical to the country’s economic future.  Spectrum auctions played a critical role in moving 4G mobile communications deployment forward and helping the U.S. take the lead on that technology.  Auctions are playing a similar role in helping companies build 5G networks that will enhance and improve services like telehealth and online education, which has proven to be so vital during the current pandemic. 

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will be holding an oversight hearing on June 16, 2020 to review the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Spectrum Auctions Program.  Given the vast experience the FCC has had in conducting spectrum auctions to the benefit of the American taxpayer and the swift, cooperative progress being made on both c-band and other ongoing spectrum auctions, it is clear that these auctions should continue to move forward unabated, albeit with continued oversight. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been pushing for the 5G FAST plan to move forward, and the FCC adopted a report and order for the c-band spectrum on February 28, 2020, which protected taxpayer interests while ensuring a rapid deployment of spectrum for 5G.  This compromise ensured satellite owners would be compensated for the costs associated with vacating the spectrum in the lower 300 MHz of the c-band and provided for an auction of the spectrum to commence on December 8, 2020, with the final auction proceeds reverting to the U.S. Treasury.  This was the best option available to move this spectrum from an underutilized resource to one that will enable 5G deployment across the country at a much faster pace than originally expected. 

On June 1, 2020, the five satellite companies eligible to receive an accelerated reimbursement payment under the compromise, funded by winning auction bidders through an emerging technologies framework that has been in place since 1994, agreed to expedite the transition from the lower 300 MHz of the c-band to help make the spectrum available for use by the mobile industry more quickly.  On June 15, 2020, Intelsat, the world’s largest satellite operator announced it had contracted with two American-owned companies to launch two new satellites to facilitate the c-band transition for its customers, which helps provide the pathway to clearing the spectrum for auction. 

However, in the interest of ensuring Americans in unserved areas of the country are identified and receive access to broadband internet more quickly, Congress may want to consider designating some of the auction proceeds to help fund broadband initiatives that are targeted specifically to unserved communities, and improved mapping of broadband service areas. 

Freeing this critical spectrum for auction helps to ensure the U.S. maintains its leadership role in the development of 5G and underlying technologies.  But, countries like China, South Korea, and the United Kingdom are also moving at a rapid pace to bring this new technology to their citizens and vying for the leadership position to set the standards for 5G that everyone will need to comply with in order to remain competitive.  The country that gets there first is the country that will continue to lead the way, which is why the current auctions must move forward quickly.