Three U.S. senators introduced a measure they say would ensure proceeds from a public auction of C-band spectrum benefits the public, rather than going to the satellite companies using the band now. The legislation was introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, John Kennedy (R-LA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
The Spectrum Management and Reallocation for Taxpayers (SMART) Act gives the FCC the authority to expedite the auction and clear a portion of the C-Band, while protecting current users.
Auction proceeds would be invested in rural broadband deployment and building Next Generation 911 networks. Some funds would also be used to cut the national deficit.
Cantwell called the measure a good first step. “We need money for rural broadband and not giveaways for foreign satellite companies. This bill is a good bipartisan step forward,” Cantwell said. Kennedy explained, “This bill gives us the chance to pay down the national debt, improve public safety and get broadband to rural communities that are still handcuffed to dial-up internet.”
The C-Band Alliance represents the satellite companies using the spectrum to deliver radio and television programming. The CBA said in filings to the FCC, two analyses of the market from economic and financial advisory firms, NERA and Evercore, show the value of the 280 MHz to be auctioned this year, ranges from $43 billion to $77 billion.
In another filing, the CBA quantifies the cost of clearing 300 MHz of C-band spectrum (including 20 MHz guard band) at $3.3 billion. This estimation comprises six basic cost categories: up to 10 new satellites, gateway consolidation, filter and other new ground equipment installations, signal compression and broadcast technology upgrades, and the cost of lost revenue from 30 satellite transponders currently contracted and in use.
“The CBA reiterates its main point that if the U.S. government determines it to be in the public interest to push out incumbent users who for decades have built their businesses around this spectrum, then fairness and the law dictate these important rights-holders should receive fair value for their efforts in expediting the clearing of this spectrum and making it available far more quickly than would otherwise be possible,” said the group.
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