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Senators Say FCC Must Protect C-Band Incumbents

A bipartisan senate duo is coming to the rhetorical rescue of incumbent C-band users.

Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) have added their voices to those of broadcasters and others asking the FCC to be careful how it allows new users to share the C-band spectrum they use to receive programming networks from suppliers.

"As part of its proceeding, the FCC must consider whether sufficient spectrum will remain available to accommodate today's C-band services, whether other transmission capacity could provide an equally reliable, available, affordable and resilient alternative, whether new uses of the band could result in harmful interference to existing services, and how to reiumburse C-band earth station operators for costs incurred," they wrote FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. 

Related: Comcast-NBCU Warns FCC That Alliance C-Band Plan Puts Fox in Hen House

Broadcast and cable voices calling for caution praised the addition to the chorus.

“NAB, NCTA, ACA and NPR thank Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Tom Udall (D-NM) for their leadership on this critical issue of spectrum management, recognizing the importance of protecting existing C-band users as Congress and the FCC consider changes to the C-band," they said in a joint statement, the "they" being the National Association of Broadcasters, NCTA-the Internet & Television Association, the American Cable Association and National Public Radio.

"Sens. Moran and Udall correctly recognize that more than 100 million Americans rely on C-band spectrum to receive the most popular news, entertainment and sports content on TV and radio," they said. "As new bands of airwaves for wireless services are considered, it is critically important that any changes to the C-Band spectrum fully protect incumbent users and consumers from harmful interference and service loss or interruptions.” 

The FCC voted unanimously back in July to find ways to open up the C-band spectrum (3.7-4.2 Ghz) — either all of the proposed 500 Mhz or some portion of it — for terrestrial wireless use.

Those ways could include an incentive or capacity auction, a market mechanism where incumbents voluntarily strike deals to reduce their footprint, or some other means.

The C-band is currently used for satellite delivery of cable and broadcast network programming to cable head-ends, TVs and radio stations. The FCC wants to open it up to wireless broadband to help close the digital divide and promote 5G, both prime directives for the commission.