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FCC Wants Comments on Feasibility of Sharing C Band Spectrum

NPR says sharing spectrum is not feasible; comment deadline set for May 31

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into whether C Band spectrum — used by National Public Radio and others — should potentially be opened up for sharing with wireless operators.

On May 1, the Office of Engineering and Technology and the International and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus asked for comments on the feasibility of allowing wireless services to use or share parts of the 3.7–4.2 GHz spectrum band for 5G use.

The FCC is asking for direction on how it should assess the possible impacts of sharing with those who are already operating in this band. The agency is also asking for suggestions on how this sharing might be accomplished without causing harmful interference and what other considerations the commission should take into account.

The deadline for those comments is May 31, with reply comments due June 15.

In a filing submitted earlier this week, National Public Radio expressed concerns about any such proposal. The public radio satellite system depends on C Band for distribution of programming to its 1,278 public radio stations, said Adam Shoemaker, counsel for NPR, in the filing.

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At a face-to-face meeting between NPR staff members and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in April, representatives from NPR touched on the current lack of alternatives to satellite for reliable public radio program distribution to public radio stations across the country.

Calling such a move “disruptive” and “not feasible,” NPR representatives explained that the nation’s noncommercial, nonprofit public radio system cannot afford alternative means of program distribution — such as terrestrial/fiber networks — which are significantly more expensive than satellite distribution. “[T]here are rural and remote areas of the country where fiber does not reach and there are no alternatives to satellite distribution, regardless of cost,” the filing said.

NPR said there are “no proven interference protections available” for those currently operating in that band.

During its discussions, NPR provided a series of information sheets to the commissioner that detailed how the public radio satellite system serves as an indispensable link to the American public.

Those interested in submitting comments on the FCC can do so through the FCC ECFS database using Docket 18-122.

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