Wicker, Thune Amend C-Band Bill

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) are introducing an amended version of a C-band auction bill, S. 2881, 5G Spectrum Act, that would boost the potential take for the treasury and allocate money for broadband buildouts for rural broadband.

That is coming at a committee markup of the bill, according to a copy of the amendment in the nature of a substitute.

The initial bill would have required that at least 50% of the proceeds from an FCC auction of the C-Band (3700 MHz to 4200 MHz) to to the treasury. But the amendment in the nature of a substitute that was approved by the committee Wednesday (Dec. 11) raises that standard as the auction take rises.

Some have predicted the auction of that sweet-spot-for-5G spectrum could generate as much as $60 billion in bids. If so, the Treasury take will get a boost.

According to the new bill, the Treasury gets at least 50% of the first $40 billion in gross proceeds. If it goes beyond that figure, 75% of the next $10 billion goes to the Treasury, and 90% of anything above that. Wicker says that is to insure there is "no windfall."

In addition, 10% of the gross proceeds will go to deploying infrastructure in underserved or unserved areas.

The bill also now requires that the FCC rules for use of the auctioned spectrum protect aviation safety equipment from harmful interference.

The bill still requires the FCC to auction at least 280 MHz of the 500 MHz C-band (with a 20 MHz guard band), leaving 200 MHz for incumbent satellite services, primarily the delivery of network programming to cable operators and broadcasters.

The auction would have to be held by the end of 2020.

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.