Cable Asks Appeals Court, FCC to Stop C-Band Repack; NAB Opposes

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Small cablecos are taking the next step in their fight with the FCC over C-band repack reimbursements. ACA Connects, the association that represents small cable companies, asked a federal court and the FCC to stay the Commission’s September 14 deadline. Broadcasters, who are also impacted by the C-band repack, opposed the request, calling cablecos greedy. 

By the deadline, earth station operators that choose a lump sum reimbursement for vacating the lower portion of the band must do so. The FCC wants to auction frequencies in the lower portion of the band for 5G.

The original deadline was August 31, but the FCC extended it based on a request from the Society of Broadcast Engineers, Inside Towers reported. ACA Connects asked the agency to stay the deadline and reconsider the underlying decision; it also asked for a decision on the stay by August 26, which did not happen, reported Multichannel News

Electing a lump sum means “irrevocably waiving other compensation,” said ACAC, so it wants the FCC to correct the formula for determining the payments. The reimbursement cost catalog the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released last month for C-band repack expenses and lump sum elections did not include compensating cable operators for integrated receiver/decoders, as the association and other cable operators had pushed for, according to Multichannel.  

The cable association still has an appeal pending at the Commission. It’s now asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to stay the September 14 deadline. “The deficiencies in formulating the lump-sum amount could indefinitely defer fiber-optic deployment that would allow upgrades and expansion of broadband access in areas served by ACA Connects’ members,” the association told the court. 

The FCC is paying cable operators and other earth station operators to move off the lower portion of the band so it can auction it for 5G, giving them the option of itemizing expenses or a lump sum. Including the costs for integrated receiver/decoders would make it easier for cablecos to move to fiber delivery, but the FCC said the lump sum was meant to approximate the cost of moving earth stations, not upgrading to a new distribution technology.

Broadcasters, whose earth stations are also part of the C-band repack, said “not so fast” Friday. The NAB opposes ACA Connect’s request for a review of the original FCC approval, telling the Commission that cableco’s arguments are not convincing and they’ve consistently treated the C-band proceeding as a business opportunity. NAB told the agency the request “is merely the latest step in ACA’s ongoing quest to transform a spectrum reallocation proceeding into a cash cow that will funnel funds from winning flexible use license bidders to ACA’s members.”  

“Remarkably, in the rulemaking stage of this proceeding and now in the implementation stage, ACA’s primary focus has been and continues to be devising ways to line its members’ pockets at the expense of other parties to the proceeding and the Commission’s goal of repurposing spectrum,” said the NAB. “While NAB certainly does not object to the determination of the installation amount, it would strain credulity to suggest that ACA’s members are somehow being shortchanged.”

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