Public Interest Groups Urge Congress to Auction C-Band Spectrum to Fund Closing Digital Divide

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Today, Public Knowledge joined 21 other rural, education, and public interest groups in a letter urging Congress to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to reallocate spectrum in the 3700 to 4200 Mhz band (the “C-Band”) benefits rural and low-income Americans struggling to access broadband. 

In the letter, the groups argue that permitting foreign satellite operators to privately sell the public’s airwaves will achieve little more than windfall profits for satellite operators. However, a public auction of the C-Band presents Congress with a unique opportunity to fund broadband infrastructure and help close the digital divide by directing “$10 billion or more in auction revenue to pay for broadband infrastructure in underserved areas and to authorize the use of spectrum in that band for high-capacity fixed wireless service in rural and less densely populated areas on a shared basis.”

Public Knowledge filed comments with the FCC alongside the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition and the Broadband Access Coalition supporting a public auction of C-Band spectrum to fund rural broadband deployment, as well as spectrum sharing in the unsold portion of the band to support broadband access and maximize efficient spectrum usage.

The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“It is time for Congress to take action to ensure the FCC’s proposed reorganization of the C-Band serves the public interest and complies with the Communications Act. The FCC’s proposal for the C-Band should be premised on a public auction of spectrum to support robust next-generation 5G mobile broadband networks, fund deployment of rural broadband infrastructure, and ensure shared use of unsold spectrum to enable high-speed fixed wireless broadband service in unserved areas. 

“A private sale of the C-Band would merely serve to enrich a handful of foreign satellite companies that have already conceded they hold spectrum far in excess of what they need to serve their customers. Allowing this spectrum to remain underutilized or permitting a private sale will not serve the public interest or help achieve pressing national goals, such as closing the digital divide.

“A public auction of the C-Band will ensure the proceeds can be allocated by Congress to bring high-speed broadband to rural areas and other unserved and underserved communities. Further, authorizing shared use of un-auctioned spectrum will ensure scarce spectrum resources are used efficiently, and bring affordable broadband to areas where broadband is unavailable or unaffordable.” 

You may view the letter here.

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