Matsui Working on C-Band Compromise Bill

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, said Wednesday (May 15) she is working on a bill, the WIN 5G Act, that would offer up a compromise approach to the thorny issue of freeing up C-band spectrum for wireless broadband.

Cable operators and broadcasters use the spectrum to receive programming from network distributors and could be dislocated in the process and fear potential interference to those transmission. The FCC has signaled, unanimously, that it plans to free up some of that spectrum for licenses wireless service, either through an auction, a market mechanism, or something else.

Related: FCC Seeks More Input on Compensating C-Band Incumbents

Matsui called it a "compromise, consensus-based" approach. Among the thorny issues that need resolving in the FCC's proposal are how much of the 500 MHz of spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz mid-band to free up--200 MHz, 300 Mhz, or perhaps all of it--whether to auction it or allow for marketplace deals between spectrum license holders (all foreign companies) and carriers, or hold an FCC auction, which could bring in tens of billions to the treasury.

Matsui did not say how the bill resolved those issues, but did say it would "rapidly reallocate" the spectrum in a manner that addresses many of the concerns raised on the commission's record."

Related: C-Band Alliance Provides More Info on Band Clearing Plan

She also signaled there were cable, wireless and rural stakeholders "preparing to support" her bill, which she said would produce a "quick, equitable and consensus-based transition." She said Congress was not willing to accept an "undesirable result" from the FCC that could get tied up in court.

At the hearing, Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel signaled she thought it was time for Congress to step in and resolve the C-band issue, suggesting she thought that would be a way to goose the process of freeing up more mid-band spectrum, which she said the FCC needed to focus on--it has been auctioning lots of high-band, millimeter wave, spectrum.

Matsui's office had not returned a request for comment at press time.

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.