Bill Would Replace T-Band Auction with 4.9 GHz Band Sale

A discussion draft circulated to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would authorize the FCC to hold an incentive auction of the 4.9 gigahertz band and rescind the requirement that the FCC auction T-band frequencies. The measure has been circulated by staffers for committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.).

Under the draft Freeing Incumbents to Reuse Spectrum and To Regain Essential Spectrum for Public-safety Operators Needed to Deploy Equipment Reliably Act of 2018, or the FIRST RESPONDER Act of 2018, the FCC would have to commence the reverse incentive auction by Sept. 30, 2023, and the agency would have to complete it by Sept. 30, 2026. The auction would be canceled if the forward auction proceeds are not enough to pay reverse auction bidders and cover the costs of holding the auction.

In March, Republican FCC Commissioners emphasized the potential benefit of repurposing the 4940-4990 megahertz band for commercial purposes, or at least opening it up to additional usage, citing the fact that the spectrum has not been heavily used since the Commission made it available for public safety agencies in 2002 (TR Daily, March 22).

Their comments came as Commissioners unanimously adopted a sixth further notice of proposed rulemaking in WP docket 07-100 seeking views on ways to promote more intensive use of the 4940-4990 MHz band.

In February, Rep. Elliot Engel (D., N.Y.) introduced legislation (HR 5085) that would repeal a provision included in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that would require the T-band to be reauctioned by the FCC for commercial use (TR Daily, Feb. 27). The bill has 16 cosponsors. Advocates of the bill are looking for Senate sponsors of a companion bill.  Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) may agree to be a Democratic sponsor.

Congress required the FCC to reallocate and auction public safety spectrum in the T-band by 2021 and relocate incumbents by 2023. Proceeds from the auction can be used to cover the relocation costs of public safety licensees. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14-20 (470-512 megahertz). Public safety agencies use the spectrum in 11 major markets.

A public safety official panned the discussion draft today, saying the measure “could solve one problem and create another problem for PS. Walden is saying that they cannot just repeal the T-Band as it has auction value but it was never scored by CBO as having value.” —Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily