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AT&T to Congress: Don't Auction T-Band

AT&T has come out strongly in support of keeping T-band spectrum in the hands of public safety. 

While it is usually all for freeing up more spectrum for 5G, the T-band is an exception, particularly with a pandemic requiring first responders to add that ongoing challenge to their daily regimen of saving lives. 

“There are public safety agencies currently utilizing T-band spectrum to support daily operations and emergency events, including the current COVID-19 public health crisis," said Tim McKone, AT&T EVP of federal relations in a statement. "The decision by Congress in 2012 to mandate the auction of the T-band next year must be repealed. We applaud the bipartisan support for keeping this critical resource in the hands of public safety and we encourage swift action as the statutory deadline for the FCC to reallocate this spectrum fast approaches.” 

AT&T has an ongoing relationship with first responders as administrator of the FirstNet public safety network created with FCC auction proceeds following communications failures during 9/11. 

FCC chairman Ajit Pai circulated an item starting the T-band auction process Friday (May 15), but in the same breath urged Congress to reverse its mandate that the FCC reclaim the spectrum and auction it by 2021. 

Related: Pai Tells Hill to Pass T-Band Preservation Bill 

The 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act mandated the auction of the spectrum. 

Related: FCC Grants More T-Band Spectrum to First Responders 

While Pai is all for freeing up or sharing spectrum currently in government hands for 5G, as is AT&T, that is not the case with the T-Band.  

Currently, scrapping that mandate is included in the HEROES Act Democratic-backed COVID-19 aid legislation, but Republicans controlling the Senate said that bill is DOA there, and the President has also said the bill is going nowhere. 

Repealing the mandate is also teed up in stand-alone legislation. 

The Government accountability Office has also concluded that the auction is unworkable and inadvisable, a point it made in a report to Congress.