FCC Won't Delay C-Band Auction

The FCC has denied a petition to delay the start of the auction of C-Band spectrum for 5G. 

A handful of international satellite companies licensed to use the band had sought a stay of the auction, scheduled to begin Dec. 8, pending their challenge of the auction decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

Related: Cable Ops Seek Delay in C-Band Payment Comment Deadline

The FCC anticipated there would be legal challenges to its decision to reclaim 300 of the 500 MHz satellite spectrum for terrestrial wireless, moving satellite incumbents, and their broadcast and cable clients, into the remaining 200 MHz. 

The companies (ABS Global Ltd., Empresa Argentina de Soluciones Satelitales S.A., and Hispamar Satélites S.A., and Hispasat S.A) had argued that beginning with the May 29 election by space station operators to relocate on an expedited basis in exchange for payments, a chain of events was starting that would harm them by "benefiting competing space station operators that are eligible for relocation and accelerated relocation payments and depriving them of spectrum access rights without compensation." They also argued the FCC did not have the authority to modify their spectrum access rights, gave out too much money in accelerated payments--that they didn't get--and arbitrarily excluded them from getting those payments. 

Related: FCC Provides Guidance for C-Band Payment Clearinghouse 

The FCC concluded that because they have no customers and provide no service in the U.S., they don't qualify for the early exit payments because they don't need to clear spectrum to speed 5G deployment in the U.S. 

There is a high bar for stays and the FCC said the petitioners had not shown they would suffer irreparable harm. "Petitioners have not come close to demonstrating an existential threat to their businesses," the FCC said, calling the harm instead "remote" and "speculative." It also said the petitioners had not shown that the facts were in their favor or that they were likely to win on the merits of their case, two other prongs to the test for granting a stay. 

"The Commission’s actions to re-purpose the C-band are an indispensable element of its overall strategy of promoting the deployment of fifth generation (5G) wireless services, with millions of jobs, and billions of dollars in economic growth and other public benefits, at stake," said the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau in denying the stay. 

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.