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Pai: Court Won't Stay C-Band Auction Item

FCC chairman Ajit Pai is celebrating a federal appeals court's decision Tuesday (June 23) not to stay the FCC's planned C-Band auction order. 

The court said the appellants had not "satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal." Those include irreparable harm and likelihood of victory.

Related: Divided FCC Votes to Proceed with C-Band Auction

The FCC is freeing up 280 MHz of that midband spectrum for 5G, paying larger satellite companies to exit early and the moving expenses of cable and broadcast clients of those satellite companies. 

"Today’s ruling is great news for American consumers and U.S. leadership in 5G," said Pai. "I am very pleased that the D.C. Circuit rejected this attempt by small satellite operators with no U.S. operations in the C-band to delay our efforts to repurpose critical mid-band spectrum."

Related: FCC C-Band Auction Still a 'Go' For December

The FCC two weeks ago denied a petition to delay the start of the auction by the same handful of international satellite companies licensed to use the band who had sought the stay in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  

The court followed suit.

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) argue 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.

The court will still hear that challenge on its merits, and has asked the parties to submit a briefing schedule by June 29. But it will not stay the decision pending the outcome of that appeal.

 "The FCC will continue to defend our order on the merits, and I look forward to our C-band auction beginning on December 8," said Pai.

John Eggerton
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.