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ACAC Gives FCC Lumps Over C-Band Lump Sums

The FCC is taking some lumps over the size of lump sum payments it is proposing to offer cable operators and other earth station owners for transitioning out of the lower portion of the C-Band satellite spectrum.  

The FCC is auctioning that lower portion for terrestrial wireless broadband. 

In a meeting with FCC chairman Ajit Pai last week, ACA Connects (ACAC) chair Patricia Jo Boyers and association president Matt Polka signaled the FCC was seriously off on the payments and said the FCC should go back to the drawing board, or the accounting ledger as it were. 

The FCC is allowing satellite operators to transition earth stations for their clients, like cable operators, at no cost, or letting those clients handle the transition of their own earth stations and get a lump sum. 

Boyers basically told Pai that she has no interest in "having satellite operators, who have no expertise in running a cable business, make any technical, financial, or operational decisions with respect to her earth stations’ transitions," so essentially her only option is the lump sum.  

That said, she told Pai according to a summary of the meeting, the FCC's calculations could wind up giving earth station owners like her only 7 cents on the dollar of the expected relocation costs--ACA Connects came up with its own estimates--which would defeat the purpose of the sum, which is to allow MVPDs a "real choice" in transitioning. 

Some of those MVPDs plan to transition to fiber instead, but still argue they should get the lump sum. 

Patricia Jo Boyers told the FCC it's C-Band transition cost estimates were way off base

Patricia Jo Boyers told the FCC it's C-Band transition cost estimates were way off base

Polka did not pull punches with the Wireless Bureau's lump sum cost estimates, calling them untenable and ascribed it potentially to the bureau's "inexperience with the technical, financial, and operational issues surrounding the distribution of video content from MVPD receive-only antennas to the homes of MVPD customers," which is generally the province of the Media Bureau. 

ACA Connects had asked the FCC to delay MVPD's deadline for comment on the lump sums until after satellite companies had actually turned in their transition plans, but the FCC declined. Polka said that decision may have contributed to the disparity between the FCC estimates and what ACAC said are the actual costs. 

He also said ACAC would have been glad to assist in those estimates had it nod been for the speed and lack of transparency with which the bureau proceeded to calculate them. 

ACAC recommends the "rework" the sums and seek additional comment.