Lawmaker Urges FCC to Use C-Band Auction Funds for U.S. Satellites

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Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) advised FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to use C-band auction funds to buy satellites from U.S. manufacturers to support American workers. Kennedy, a critic of the agency’s C-band repack plan, sees the purchases as a quid pro quo for payments the satcos are slated to receive from the federal government.

“I strongly believe that funds raised from this U.S. government-led auction should advantage the American manufacturing base and support job growth here in the United States,” said Kennedy in a letter. “Given that U.S. taxpayers are effectively footing the bill for these assets—assets that are already owned by the taxpayer—it makes good sense to require an investment in the American industrial base. In order to ensure that these funds are used most effectively in supporting U.S. economic growth and a continuity of service—especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—I urge the FCC to institute a ‘Buy American’ request to all satellite operators,” he continued. 

The FCC in March issued an order enabling U.S. wireless carriers to acquire at auction C-band spectrum currently licensed to satellite operators. The intent of the auction is to free up mid-band spectrum for future wireless use. Under the plan, winning bidders would reimburse C-band incumbents up to $9.7 billion in incentive costs and a total of $15 billion in reimbursement payments to vacate one portion of the band and be repacked into another, Inside Towers reported. They would do so via an FCC auction clearinghouse.

Incumbent foreign satellite operators on the band originally promised to purchase satellites from American manufacturers as they transitioned to using a different part of the spectrum, Kennedy noted. But they changed their minds, and are now “planning to shop overseas,” he says.

Saying “this isn’t a done deal,” he encouraged the satcos to change their plans.

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