FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Friday reiterated his call for congressional repeal of the T-band auction mandate, a requirement of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (the Spectrum Act). He circulated to his fellow Commissioners a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement this mandate. If adopted, the NPRM would take the next steps to begin a system of competitive bidding for the T-band if Congress fails to repeal the auction mandate.
The Chairman called the T-band auction a bad idea, but says it’s mandated by law. “It’s unfortunate that Commission resources must be dedicated to laying the groundwork for an auction that will likely fail. This is especially true at a time when we are making every effort to keep Americans safe and connected, including allowing expanded temporary use of this very spectrum to help first responders save lives.”
Pai cited bipartisan legislation in Congress to repeal the mandate. Those include bills in the House and Senate that could repeal with 911 fee diversion reform. “I hope legislation passes soon so first responders who rely on this spectrum no longer need to worry about a potential loss of or significant disruption to their mission-critical radio systems. I remain committed to helping Congress in any way I can to ensure that such harms to public safety operations do not come to pass,” said Pai.
In 2012, Congress passed the Spectrum Act, requiring the FCC to reallocate T-band spectrum used by public safety licensees and “begin a system of competitive bidding” for reallocated spectrum by 2021. The agency compiled a record on the T-band that it says demonstrates an auction is unlikely to yield enough money to cover the costs to move public safety users out of the band.
In addition, the Government Accountability Office reported to Congress the T-band mandate is unworkable and could deprive first responders of their current ability to communicate by radio. The report, Required Auction of Public Safety Spectrum Could Harm First Responder Capabilities, is available here.