ACAC to FCC: Excluding IRD's Costs Could Delay C-Band Auction

ACA Connects is telling the FCC it could find itself in court if it excludes IRD (integrated receiver/decoder equipment) costs from the lump sum payment it is offering incumbent earth station operators to pay for moving off of their C-Band spectrum. 

Related: FCC to Vote on C-Band Auction Procedures 

That is according to a meeting between ACAC and FCC officials last week, who argue that the FCC's C-Band order is clear about IRD costs and do veer from that could render the order illegal. 

IRDs receive and decode satellite signals from programmers and are needed if cable ops move earth stations, but not if they transition to fiber delivery. 

Related: FCC Rejects Second Petition to Stay C-Band Order

The FCC is clearing the lower 300 MHz of the 500 MHz C-Band satellite spectrum for auction to wireless carriers for terrestrial broadband. The incumbent users, including cable operators, are being compensated for their move out of that spectrum. 

Cable operators want the lump some to include payment for relocating all of their earth stations but be free to use it to transition some or all of their earth stations to fiber delivery instead. ACAC urged the commission "to give earth station operators flexibility to pursue alternative technology upgrade strategies if doing so would be more efficient."  

Related: ACAC Gives FCC Lumps Over C-Band Lump Sum Payments

Broadcasters teamed up with TV content companies--broadcast and cable programmers--to ask the FCC not to allow MVPDs to include IRDs in the lump sum they can opt for in their move out of C-Band spectrum, arguing that IRD costs would artificially inflate the payments to cable operators. 

But cable operators say that under the plain language of the C-Band order "whether the lump sum recipient actually needs IRDs is irrelevant; the lump sum, which is 'in lieu' of C-band relocation cost reimbursement, is to be based on the money that would have been spent to upgrade all of an operator’s earth stations." 

In their meeting with the top FCC lawyers, ACAC president Matt Polka and others from ACAC warned that to exclude IRD costs "could invite legal challenges that could delay the transition." 

The C-Band auction is scheduled to begin in September. Satellite operators have already agreed to exit early in exchange for billions of dollars from the FCC. FCC chairman Ajit Pai has promoted the launch of the auction this year and its beachfront midband spectrum as important to winning the race to 5G.  

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.