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Reps. Ask FCC to Protect C Band Incumbents

Caution against harming cable, broadcast transmissions

A bipartisan House Communications Subcommittee duo has called on the FCC to protect incumbents in the C Band. The C Band is currently used for satellite delivery of cable and broadcast network programming to TV and radio stations, satellite radio services, and cable head-ends. The FCC wants to open it up to wireless broadband to help close the digital divide and promote 5G, both prime directives for the commission.

In a letter to the currently mostly shuttered FCC, Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said they had concerns about the proposed rulemaking to expand operations in the band, part of the FCC’s overall mission to free up lots more spectrum, either through sharing or reclamation or both, for next-gen wireless broadband. 

[Read: Senators Urge FCC to Be Mindful of C Band Incumbents] 

They said they were all for expanding that high-speed broadband and closing the digital divide, including looking for new uses for the C Band, but not at the expense of important existing services. The FCC voted unanimously back in July 2018 to find ways to open up the C Band spectrum (3.7-4.2 GHz) — either all of the proposed 500 MHz or some portion of it — for terrestrial wireless use. 

Those ways could include an incentive or capacity auction, a market mechanism where incumbents voluntarily strike deals to reduce their footprint, or some other means. In balancing incumbents with new users, the legislators said this week, the FCC must consider protecting those cable and broadcast incumbents. 

That includes potential interference, other disruptions to service, and tailoring new rules to avoid those.They said in the event the FCC does reallocate portions of the band, it must at a minimum make those incumbents whole for any costs incurred as a result. 

Cable operators and broadcasters have both been telling the FCC it needs to do more study before taking a final vote on the proposal. 

“NAB, NCTA, ACA and NPR thank Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for their support in protecting incumbent C Band users from interference, higher prices or service loss as the FCC considers new uses for the spectrum band,” said the broadcast and cable organizations in a joint statement. “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.” 

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