Sen. Kennedy: FCC Should Hold Public Auction of C-Band (updated)
October 17, 2019
Senate Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman John Kennedy (R-LA) lit into Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai for even considering private spectrum deals with foreign owned satellite companies, which say they can free up C-Band spectrum for 5G faster than an FCC auction. Chairman Kennedy told Chairman Pai that his mind could be changed, but he was currently biased for a public auction so that the American taxpayer, not "Luxembourg" (where some of the satellite operators are based) should reap the profits from repurposing some of the band for 5G. He pointed out that the C-Band auction could generate up to $60 billion and what it could buy if it went to the Treasury rather than Luxembourg. As to the legality, Chairman Pai said FCC lawyers were looking into that. Pai told the subcommittee that the FCC favored a market-based approach, but that meant flexibility rather than top-down government mandates, suggesting it definitely did not necessarily favoring private deals over public auctions. In fact, he pointed out that the FCC had held some 93 spectrum auctions in the past 25 years.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai played it close to the vest, reiterating only that the agency would reach a decision on the matter “this fall.” Chairman Kennedy expressed disbelief that the public auction (which he favors) could take up to an estimated seven years and called on Pai to guarantee the FCC can get it done in less than half that time. “When I ask, ‘Well, why can’t you do it faster?’ I never get an answer; they just say, ‘We can’t,’ and I don’t believe it,” he told Chairman Pai, adding that he’s considering holding a follow-up hearing with representatives from the FCC’s spectrum auction program to “tell us where they are and ask them straight up — ‘Some people say it’ll take you seven years. Is that true? And if so, why?’”
Sen. Kennedy: FCC Should Hold Public Auction of C-Band (updated) Chairman Pai Testimony at Oversight Hearing on Spectrum Auctions