[Update: The FCC on Thursday responded to the SBE request described below with a two-week extension; read about it here.]
“Give us more time.”
That’s what the SBE is asking the FCC on behalf of engineers and broadcast stations.
A lot of radio engineers are asking a lot of questions right now about those tempting lump sum payments for migrating their C-Band earth stations, trying to figure out the right choice for their individual situation by the end of August. The Society of Broadcast Engineers has asked the Federal Communications Commission to extend the Aug. 31 deadline by a month.
The discussion applies to owners of C-Band satellite earth stations who registered antennas earlier and are eligible for cost reimbursement; in an order in July they were given the option to submit actual costs for reimbursement or apply for a lump-sum reimbursement.
SBE says the deadline of Aug. 31 to decide is insufficient for broadcasters and their engineers.
The background: The FCC’s auction in the 3.7-4.0 GHz segment is set for December. The FCC is moving earth stations in the fixed satellite service to the 200 MHz at 4.0–4.2 GHz, requiring a repack of FSS earth stations. Under the program, new 5G commercial mobile licensees will reimburse “reasonable relocation costs” of eligible, incumbent operators including earth station operators, to move out of 3.7-4.0 and into the 4.0-4.2 GHz segment.
Earth station operators are reimbursed through the Wireless Bureau based on a published cost catalog.
But the SBE writes: “While the Report and Order was released March 3, 2020, neither the Public Notice announcing the process, nor the Cost Catalog, was released until July 30, 2020, almost four months later.
“Because the Public Notice specified 30 days for a large number of broadcasters and broadcast engineers to evaluate, prepare and submit their election for lump sum payments, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept many from their workplaces, the SBE made the motion for the filing extension.”
It said an extension shouldn’t affect the auction timetable.
Companies that work in satellite infrastructure are getting tons of questions.
“We have been slammed to calls from cable TV companies and broadcasters, all asking for advice on filing for the lump sum,” said John Joslin of Dawnco in an email to Radio World.
“We actually talk for 20 to 40 minutes with each caller, to help them understand the implications of choosing the Lump Sum option. We are referring our customers to a firm in Washington D.C. that provides expert help in filing for the FCC Lump Sum payment. They charge $1,250 plus $75 for each dish to make the filing.”
Joslin emphasized that barring an extension, there is little time left for stations to get their lump sums of roughly $9,000 or $17,000 per dish. “They have to talk to their FCC attorney, or use the firm in Washington that Dawnco recommends. They need to do this now. If they don’t register before August 31, they miss out on the lump sum.”
Separately, LinkUp Communications posted a discussion on its blog earlier this month. It described the lump sum amounts as “quite generous,” citing for example the compensation for opting out a receive-only single-feed antenna at $8,948 per antenna.
“If you have dozens of C-band downlinks in your network, it would be so tempting to accept the lump sum payment and worry about filters or repointing of the downlinks later,” the company wrote.
“But here’s the deal: If you take the cash, you are solely responsible for the installation of filters, upgrades, repoints and the like at your downlink sites.”
The company, which offers services in this area, said users who “hire a reliable, seasoned crew of satellite technicians to assist” will probably be OK; but it warned against traveling teams of technicians – “we called them satellite cowboys” – who may not have the necessary experience. (Read more comments from the company’s Mark Johnson.)
LinkUp’s advice: “If you don’t want the headache of dealing with the details associated with the C-band repack, let the satellite owners handle it. All updates to your downlinks will be covered at no expense to you. And you can be assured that the work will be completed correctly. But if you choose to collect the lump sum, don’t waste your time hiring a company that may not have the skill set to handle the work. Make sure you contract with experienced satellite professionals so the job is done right.”