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Quartet of Coalitions Pans Private C-Band Sales

High tech companies, public interest groups and others have gotten together to try and keep the FCC from allowing private market deals for C-Band satellite spectrum, valued at between $10 billion and $30 billion, they point out.

They made that pitch to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee.

The FCC, with input from Congress and the public, is currently considering whether to hold an auction or to allow licensees in the band to strike deals for some, or perhaps all, of the the 500 MHz of midband spectrum currently used by broadcast and cable operators to receive programming from networks and the field.

Related: CBA Outlines Auction Proposal

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), for example, has proposed legislation that would create an FCC auction, but put it on a timetable and direct some of the funds to deployment, as well as compensating carriers and potentially broadcasters and cable operators as well.

A coalition of those satellite licensees--the C-Band Alliance--has proposed private deals, saying that is the fastest and most efficient way to clear the spectrum for 5G.

In a letter to the Hill, Broadband Connects America, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition and the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition have told the FCC that it should go with a government auction, then the proceeds could go to broadband subsidies, rather than be a "windfall" for the four international satellite carriers in the C-Band Alliance.

New America's Open Technology Institute (OTI), which backs the letter, said that the FCC can't let satellite operators pocket the profits even if it wants to.

"Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Program at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“The FCC lacks legal authority to allow a private auction and windfall to satellite companies that never paid for spectrum," says Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Program at OTI. "This gives Congress an opportunity to mandate both a public auction and coordinated shared access to unused spectrum in the C-band, which together can provide billions in funding for infrastructure and the spectrum that rural broadband providers, schools, and other enterprises need to close the connectivity gap in underserved areas.”

Cable operators and broadcasters have been focused primarily on preventing interference to their program delivery however the spectrum is reapportioned--though they wouldn't mind a cut of the take from sales or an auction. But cable operators are also wearing two hats as they look to get into the 5G wireless broadband business themselves.