Studios Caution FCC About Protecting C-Band Incumbents

Representatives of some of the major content companies met with FCC officials last week to caution the commission to be careful how it opens up the C-Band for wireless broadband, but also to put in a slight plug for the C-Band Alliance proposal for repacking the band. 

The C-band is the satellite spectrum that programmers use to distribute their content/channels to broadcasters and cable operators. 

The FCC plans to free up some of that spectrum for 5G, but is still trying to figure out how, how much, and how to protect incumbents against interference and whether/how to compensate them for a band repack to free up at least 200 MHz of the 500 MHz in the band. 

Talking up incumbent protections were representatives of CBS, Discovery, Disney, Fox, Univision, and Viacom. 

ESPN pointed out that it used the band to acquire almost 29,000 sports feeds (such as press conferences), often on short notice. It said on one day last month, it used 143 C-band feeds to produce its content. 

Given that the C-band is a "critical" link in getting programming via cable, satellite and over-the-air TV, they said and given that there are no "viable, scalable and reliable" alternatives for video delivery, it asked the FCC to focus more on how a band reallocation plan will affect the "uninterrupted" access to video, as in as much time spent protecting video downlinks as debating private clearing vs. public auctions. For example, the FCC could make sure that no company selling spectrum rights gets that money until they have instituted agreed-on protections and mobile operators getting those rights should not be able to light up their operations until a repack is successfully completed. 

That was where the C-Band Alliance came in for some praise. The content companies said that of the proposals in the record, "only that of the C-band Alliance gives serious attention to how the commission could preserve reliable video delivery over the C-band." 

They said a critical aspect of that CBA plan was limiting the spectrum freed up to only 200 MHz, including a 20 MHz guard band between mobile and other users.

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.