Lawmakers back C-band incumbents in letter to FCC

The members of Congress told the FCC that it must avoid disruptions in the services American consumers currently enjoy. (Pixabay)

Two members of Congress are calling on the FCC to proceed with caution as it considers permitting new wireless services and shared use in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, also known as the C-Band, saying that a lot of satellite companies are licensed to use the band and their customers rely on it to provide content for TV, cable and radio programming across the country.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., sent the Jan. 17 letter (PDF) to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who remains at the commission despite the government shutdownalong with the three commissionersbecause their compensation is financed by a resource other than annual appropriations. Most of the agency remains shuttered, however.

The congressmen noted that the C-band is used to deliver content to more than 100 million American households through thousands of cable and satellite provides, more than 1,000 broadcast TV stations and a growing number of over-the-top service providers.

“To be clear, we do not oppose examination of new, additional uses of the C-band,” they wrote. “This mid-band spectrum could prove to support coverage and capacity for next-generation technology that is critical to the nation, including 5G wireless services. However, in the event the Commission opens the C-band for spectrum reallocation, the Commission should, at minimum, ensure that incumbents are made whole for costs incurred as a result of any new services or shared uses in the band.”

The FCC in July adopted an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to look at new opportunities for flexible use in up to 500 megahertz of midband spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz. 

The C-Band Alliance, consisting of the satellite players most affected by proposed changes in the band, has offered to make 200 megahertz available, which includes a 20 MHz guard band, for 5G in a secondary market type of arrangement. But not everyone is on board with that, and T-Mobile countered with a proposal (PDF) of its own that says it would allow both incumbents and taxpayers to share in auction-generated revenues.

Cárdenas and Kinzinger did not mention the C-Band Alliance in their letter to Pai, but the alliance clearly was encouraged.

“The C-Band Alliance plan is 100% consistent with the Cárdenas/Kinsinger letter. Under CBA plan, every current C-band customer will continue to be served in C-band. That is NOT true of the T-MO plan,” said C-Band Alliance spokesman Preston Padden in a statement Friday.

RELATED: T-Mobile doubles down on its proposal for 3.7-4.2 GHz band

In a joint statement, the American Cable Association, National Association of Broadcasters, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association and NPR thanked the two representatives for their support. “Tens of millions of Americans rely on the C-band to receive news, entertainment, weather and sports content every day. It’s critically important for the FCC to ensure that any changes to C-band spectrum usage must preserve interference-free access to this popular radio and TV content,” they said.

Back in November, senators Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., sent a letter (PDF) to the FCC expressing their concerns regarding the FCC's NPRM on the C-band and urged the FCC to consider the extensive use and significant investment already made in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band by satellite licensees and their content-providing customers.