CBA Responds to “Misstatements” About C-band Auction

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Much of the C-band hearing on Thursday centered on how soon the FCC or an outside entity could hold a public auction of the mid-band spectrum, so the Commission can clear a portion for wireless use. Representatives of two government watchdog organizations told lawmakers a private auction run by the C-Band Alliance would not be quick, nor transparent.

In response, CBA EVP/Head of Advocacy & Government Relations Peter Pitsch refuted those assertions in a letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services Chairman John Kennedy (R-LA) and Ranking Member Christopher Coons (D-DE).

“We are on record that CBA will conduct an open, fair and transparent auction process with oversight by the FCC and will work with the FCC every step of the way,” writes Pitsch. 

“Our goal is to provide a workable solution to a very complicated problem, partnering with the FCC to deliver an acceptable outcome to the many various stakeholders,” says Pitsch. “By enabling a fast spectrum sale, we are advancing the public and national security interests, because the U.S. will enter the 5G race quickly and with the right tools for success.”  

Pitsch states: “No other proposal before the FCC frees up the C-band spectrum for 5G as quickly as the CBA’s does while preserving the video and radio services that currently use the C-band to reach nearly 120 million American households. In addition, the CBA has pledged to make a contribution to the U.S. Treasury as part of its plan.”

He cites wireless carriers, satellite companies, content distributors, broadcasters, empirical economists, equipment manufacturers, aerospace companies, and free market organizations as supporting the proposal.

Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams and Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz repeatedly said the C-band spectrum is a taxpayer asset that should be publicly auctioned by the FCC. Pitsch told lawmakers that taxpayer advocacy groups like the Americans for Tax Reform have championed the CBA’s plan because, among other things, it “acknowledges taxpayer interests.”

As for timing, Pitsch says Williams and Schatz: “overstate the efficiency of an FCC-run public auction relative to a market-based transaction. While the FCC has increased the speed of its more routine auctions in recent years, the current auction backlog and complexities of the C-band ecosystem would add significant delay to an FCC-run public auction for the C-band spectrum.”

The CBA representative cites a CTIA study that found it takes, on average, 13 years to reallocate spectrum for wireless use through the public auction process. Pitsch points to comments made last month at a spectrum conference covered by Inside Towers by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. He criticized claims that seek to overstate the “Commission’s supposed efficiency and timeliness in conducting auctions. Given what is already in the pipeline and how long it takes for the Commission to set up and operate an auction — we are talking years, and I mean years — before completion,” said O’Rielly.

Under the CBA proposal, the C-band spectrum will be cleared and ready for 5G deployment within 36 months; a subset will be cleared in 46 major markets within the first 18 months of an FCC order, according to Pitsch.

October 18, 2019

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