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NAB Slams Cable Fiber-for-C-Band 'Un' Plan

While some cable operators are pitching a move to fiber for program delivery rather than the C-band satellite spectrum, broadcasters are definitely not among them, taking the opportunity in an FCC filing to slam a proposal to do so by ACA Connects, the Competitive Carriers Association and Charter.

Related: ACA Connects Tells FCC More Details Coming on Fiber Delivery Plan

It called that proposal "complex, unproven and time-consuming," would "dangerously concentrate" pricing power and warned the FCC not to "cave" to "unreasonable and unjustified" pressure.

Both broadcasters and cable operators currently use C-band spectrum to receive programming from networks and video from the field, but the FCC has signaled it wants to free up some of that spectrum for terrestrial wireless broadband (5G).

Cable operators are more amenable to moving to fiber, perhaps because they are looking to add 5G wireless to their own business as they chase the mobile broadband audience beyond the WiFi hot spot model.

But broadcasters argue that too many a backhoe has taken out a cable to trust fiber as anything but a backstop to satellite broadcasting.

The National Association of Broadcasters made that point with emphasis in comments to the FCC, which is considering clearing 200 MHz of the 500 MHz in the C-band, leaving spectrum for satellite delivery.

NAB said it should proceed along that path, rather than cable's runway to at least 370 MHz and perhaps the whole band (3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz).

NAB paints an unflattering portrait of cable's motives.

"Pay TV members of the ACA Coalition seek to leverage this proceeding to acquire four specific economic and competitive advantages," it told the commission. "First, they seek to be paid for their earth stations.

Second, they seek to be paid to install fiber to replace C-band distribution. Third, they seek to be paid by content providers for fiber distribution in lieu of C-band. Fourth, they seek long-term leverage to raise the rates for such distribution."

NAB strongly urged the FCC to reject the cable plan: "Forcing content providers to give up the ubiquitous, seamlessly reliable satellite distribution C-band spectrum provides in exchange for a massively complex, expensive and less reliable fiber distribution network risks devastating harm to a vibrant content ecosystem on which hundreds of millions of Americans rely for the news, sports and entertainment programming they currently enjoy," NAB said. 

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.