ACA Connects Sounds Alarm Over C-Band Mission Creep

ACA Connects (formerly the American Cable Association) has sounded the alarm over C-band spectrum creep.

In an ex parte filing on the FCC's plan to free up some C-Band spectrum for advanced wireless, ACA Connects pointed to filings by T-Mobile that 200 MHz will be insufficient, by CTIA -the Wireless Association, that 300 MHz might need to be re-purposed, and from Qualcomm, which says that the full 500 MHz should be in play.

"These proposals are no less than existential threats to ACA Connects members, particularly rural cable operators, for whom video backhaul using the C-band is a crucial input," said the association. "The proposals are made on the fly and with scant or no evidentiary support, and without any serious attempt to assess or address the harms that such plans will create for MVPDs and their customers, particularly those in rural areas."

ACA Connects cautions the FCC that before it does anything, it needs to gather and assess data on how much of the band can actually be "re-farmed" without causing harm to incumbents. The C-band is currently used for satellite delivery of cable and broadcast network programming to cable head-ends, TVs and radio stations. 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.

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It also says the FCC has to assess the potential harm of a T-Mobile proposal that the re-farmed spectrum be sold on a local-market bases, which ACA Connects says would be "disastrous" for rural broadband.

ACA says it is OK with "limited" refarming so long as its members are "made whole" for "harms they will suffer" and the process does not discriminate between urban and rural users, and perphaps even large amounts so long as protections are in place. It also wants the FCC to require anyone with a refarming plan to provide enough details so stakeholders can vet it.

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.

Related: Reps Say FCC Must Protect C-Band Incumbents

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.

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

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.