Public Interest Coalitions Urge Congress to Auction C-Band Spectrum and Use the Revenue to Close the Rural Broadband Divide

Press Release
July 9, 2019

Today, public interest coalitions including rural, consumer, education, and high-tech company advocates sent a letter to Congressional leaders calling on lawmakers to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to reallocate spectrum in the 3700 to 4200 MHz band (the C-Band) benefits consumers and rural Americans.

The letter opposes a private auction and windfall for foreign satellite operators that never paid for the spectrum. Instead, the letter states, C-band offers “Congress a unique opportunity to direct $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.”

The nonprofits signing the letter include four coalitions representing rural broadband advocates (Broadband Connects America), high-tech companies (Dynamic Spectrum Alliance), schools and other community anchor institutions (Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition), and consumer and civil rights advocates (Public Interest Spectrum Coalition).

The letter urges Congress to direct the FCC to conduct a public auction, to designate the expected $10 to $30 billion in revenue to close the rural and low-income broadband divide, and to direct the FCC to authorize shared access to the unused C-band spectrum needed to bring high-speed broadband to rural areas. Identical letters are addressed to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The letter states: “The combination of dedicating public auction revenue to support rural infrastructure and authorizing shared access to unused mid-band spectrum for use by small and rural operators is the most promising way to close the rural digital divide, promote competition, and make 5G more available and affordable for all Americans.”

The following can be attributed to Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“The FCC lacks legal authority to allow a private auction and windfall to satellite companies that never paid for spectrum. This gives Congress an opportunity to mandate both a public auction and coordinated shared access to unused spectrum in the C-band, which together can provide billions in funding for infrastructure and the spectrum that rural broadband providers, schools, and other enterprises need to close the connectivity gap in underserved areas.”

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