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Matsui Toughens Time Frames in WIN 5G Act

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) has released the final version of her WIN 5G Act, which provides a "compromise" plan for clearing as much C-Band (3.7 GHz-4.2 GHz) spectrum for 5G commercial wireless as possible. The final version has "stronger" time frames for completion of plan.

Matsui, who is co-chair of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, introduced a draft version of the bill in June.

Matsui did not announce any co-sponsors on the bill, but a source said they were waiting until after the August recess to make that push. 

Broadcast and cable operators receive network programming via that C-band spectrum and could face dislocation and potential interference from new terrestrial users and a repack process, something the bill seeks to avoid while still trying to clear the maximum amount of spectrum possible for 5G.

“Since releasing the draft of this legislation, I am please with the breadth of stakeholders who have offered support for a compromise and consensus-based approach," Matsui said. "As introduced, the WIN 5G Act includes stronger timeframes for the review and reallocation plan to be completed – ensuring that this spectrum can be repurposed for 5G rapidly and equitably.

In the draft, the transition facilitation plan, "complete with technical, frequency migration, and end-user protection plans," had to be submitted to the FCC no later than 6 months after the date of the bill's enactment. The FCC then had 90 days to "ensure the plan is adequate," including "an opportunity for the transition facilitator to cure any inadequacies."

Now that time frame is four months and two months, respectively.

The bill also creates a framework for clearing more high-band spectrum (3.45 GHz-3.55 GHz), R&D money for freeing up even more spectrum, and puts some of the funds from a C-Band auction into a Rural Broadband Deployment Fund.

Under the bill, a minimum of four satellite operators--out of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, Telesat, ABS, Empresa Argentina, Hispasat, and Star One--would have to come up with a transition plan (they would be "transition facilitators"--that the FCC would review and accept, or modify, or reject with instructions on how to cure it.

Those satellite operators would receive an escalating cut of the auction proceeds based on how much of the spectrum could be freed up. The plan would also cover the transition costs of those incumbent cable operators and broadcasters, plus at least potentially giving them a cut of the auction proceeds above those transition costs, with the remainder of the auction proceeds going to that new rural broadband fund.

One of the knocks on the FCC auction approach is that it could take several years. The bill would instead put the FCC on the clock to try and ensure that FCC process does not become a hurdle in the race to 5G. 

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.