FCC Would Auction Satellite Airwaves Under Bipartisan House Bill

Oct. 24, 2019, 8:04 PM

House lawmakers have unveiled a bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission to auction a swath of highly-prized airwaves, rather than allow satellite companies, including Intelsat S.A. and SES S.A., to sell rights privately.

The commission is weighing competing proposals to repurpose the mid-band airwaves, known as the C-band, which satellite companies now use to transmit TV programming to cable operators and broadcasters.

A satellite company consortium is seeking FCC approval to sell rights to a portion of the airwaves, reaping potentially billions of dollars.

Charter Communications Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc., among others, have called on the FCC to auction licenses to the airwaves. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecom panel, introduced the measure Oct. 24.

Revenue from a public auction could be used to expand broadband internet access to rural parts of the country, Doyle said in a statement.

“This bill would ensure a transparent and fair process that would generate billions of dollars in revenue to address the urgent needs of millions of Americans such as building out broadband internet service in rural America while protecting users of incumbent services,” Doyle said.

The FCC would have to open up between 200 MHz to 300 MHz of C-band spectrum, preserving the remaining frequencies for TV programming distribution, under Doyle’s bill.

Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) are cosponsoring the measure. Doyle’s subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the C-band Oct. 29.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said he wants the FCC to move forward with final rules to open up the C-band to wireless carriers this fall.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Reid in Washington at jreid@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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