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WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) subcommittee hearing chaired by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today, federal officials confirmed that an auction of C-Band spectrum can be completed by the end of 2020.  This confirmation eliminates concerns that a private sale needs to be held because a public auction would take years to coordinate.

Sen. Kennedy has been a strong advocate for a public auction of the C-Band spectrum needed to deliver 5G technology to the American people.  Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the FCC will conduct a public auction of the C-Band spectrum, instead of a closed-door private auction.  At today’s hearing, the FCC’s Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology Julius Knapp and Acting Chief of the Office of Economics and Analytics Giulia McHenry confirmed that the FCC is fully capable of commencing and completing the C-Band auction by the end of 2020.

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s opening statement.

Hearing Highlights:

SEN. KENNEDY:

C-Band Potential Litigation: “There’s $60 billion at stake here, maybe less but not much less. It’s been my experience when government makes a decision that you get sued anyway.  If somebody’s happy and somebody’s sad, you’re going to get sued, and I fully expect whatever the FCC does, private or public auction, you’re going to get sued, but good luck finding a federal judge who’s going to issue an injunction and is going to shut this down.  I think that the case law in my opinion is on the FCC’s side.”

C-Band’s 5G capabilities: “… the FCC, for some time, has been deliberating how best to allocate the C-Band, 3.7 gigahertz to 4.2 gigahertz.  We have discovered it will be very valuable for fifth generation wireless technology because it can reach a large geographical area and carry lots and lots of data.”

Impact on Rural Communities: “Last night I introduced a bill, a competing bill, that will require the FCC to hold a public auction of the C-Band spectrum.  It would allow for no less than 200 megahertz and no more than 300 megahertz of C-band spectrum to be auctioned off.  It would ensure … that incumbent C-Band users will be protected.  My bill will direct that all of the money goes to the United States Treasury and that $10 billion of the funds be specifically set aside to build out and maintain rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural communities.”

C-band ownership: “My understanding is that the current users of the C-band paid no money for it.  They do not have a license.  I’m not sure of the exact legal term that gives them the right, the privilege rather, to use the C-Band auction, but I liken it to a 30 day month-to-month lease.  And I think the property right here is something that we should address.”

MS. GIULIA McHENRY:
Federal Communications Commission Acting Chief of the Office of Economics and Analytics
About the Public Auction Decision: “Guiding the chairman’s decision, was his view that the proposed private sale offered by the C-Band alliance was unlikely to be fair and transparent,” said Ms. McHenry.  “Given that bidders across the board, have repeatedly stated that the rules and protections of an FCC run auction are necessary for this potentially multi-billion dollar sale, the chairman concluded that the tried and true method of a public auction was the fastest and best means to get the spectrum to market.”

The Public Auction Timeline: “The chairman has announced that he expects a commission vote on the public auction early next year, and we are planning to conduct a fair and transparent auction while preserves that upper 200 megahertz of this band for the continued delivery of programming,” said Ms. McHenry.  “We are confident we can commence this auction before the end of 2020.”

 

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