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Pai Pushes Hill to Scrap T-Band Auction ASAP

FCC chair Ajit Pai is again urging Congress to reverse its mandate to reclaim and auction the T-Band spectrum, currently in the hands of first responders, by 2021, even as he circulated the framework for the auction he hopes doesn't happen. 

Related: Pai Tells Hill to Pass T-Band Preservation Bill 

The 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act mandated the auction of the spectrum. 

Related: FCC Grants More T-Band Spectrum to First Responders 

While Pai is all for freeing up or sharing spectrum currently in government hands for 5G, that is not the case with the T-Band. Nonetheless, the FCC is under a congressional mandate and Pai circulated the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Friday (May 15) beginning the process of setting up that auction. 

Currently, scrapping that mandate is included in the HEROES Act Democratic-backed COVID-19 aid legislation, but Republicans controlling the Senate said that bill is DOA there, and the President has also said the bill is going nowhere. 

“An FCC auction of the T-band is a bad idea. But as of today, the law mandates that we do it," he said. "It’s unfortunate that Commission resources must be dedicated to laying the groundwork for an auction that will likely fail [the FCC has concluded that the auction would not even cover the costs of the move of public safety users out of the T-Band). This is especially true at a time when we are making every effort to keep Americans safe and connected, including allowing expanded temporary use of this very spectrum to help first responders save lives." 

He points out that repealing the mandate is also teed up in stand-alone legislation, or almost stand-alone. “Fortunately, there is bipartisan legislation in Congress to repeal this mandate, including bills that couple repeal with 911 fee diversion reform [a big issue for Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly] as reported out by the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the U.S. Senate and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives." 

The Government Accountability Office has also concluded that the auction is unworkable and inadvisable, a point it made in a report to Congress.