Mr. and Mrs. Linkup to Go Washington – Part Two

(Our second day of meetings at the FCC, and some of the amazing announcements released by the government agency since!)

(BACKGROUND…On April 19, 2018, the FCC issued a temporary freeze effective on the filing of new or modification applications for FSS earth station licenses, FSS receive-only earth station registrations, and fixed microwave licenses4 in the 3.7-4.2 GHz frequency band.  The purpose of this freeze? To preserve the current landscape of authorized operations in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band pending Commission action. This is all part of the Commission’s ongoing inquiry into the possibility of permitting more use of the band by others, including 5G terrestrial broadband.)

Mark and I had scheduled three days in Washington DC in late May to share?  persuade? implore the FCC to consider the “real life” impact 5G will have on the heavily-used frequency between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz – frequency populated by C-band transmissions.

Our first series of meetings were with representatives from the International Bureau (IB) of the FCC. Both of us had so much that we would have liked to have shared, but we had to narrow our focus, so we highlighted the FCC filing itself – the complexity of the form, the need for the ability to “batch file” multiple C-band downlinks, and the $435 per downlink registration fee.

The second round of meetings were on the FCC’s 8th floor – the offices of the chair and commission members. Representing Chairman Alit Pai was Rachael Bender, who advises the Chairman on Wireless and International Issues. Next, we met with  a member of Commissioner Michael O’Reilly’s staff – Erin McGrath, whose role as legal advisor means her primary focus is on media matters. Our last meeting of the day? Legal Advisor Will Adams, sitting in for Commissioner Brendan Carr.

As I shared in “Mr. and Mrs. LinkUp Go to Washington, Part One” Mark and I felt strongly compelled to make the trip to DC for a sit-down with the FCC to share first-hand the challenges our broadcast customers who receive programming via C-band will face if the proposed 5G “sharing” is embraced.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

To be honest, each meeting was nearly identical. In each, we had a 15-minute meeting scheduled – and we spoke for 15 minutes. As those of you who know us understand, it wasn’t at all difficult for the Johnsons to fill each 15-minute time slot.

Content wise, we stuck to the talking points. Mark and I told our story – which are really your stories – then asked for caution.

  • We shared that our customers were discouraged, finding Form 312 complicated and difficult to fill out.
  • Explained that – for those customers who had multiple C-band downlinks scattered across a region or across the country, filing an individual Form 312 for each was painfully time-consuming.
  • Implored the commission to re-think the $435 per C-band earth station registration fee – especially for broadcasters who were registering multiple downlinks. At the least, could there not be some sort of flat fee and a way to conduct a batch filing?
  • And finally, at the end of each meeting – Mark urged the FCC to proceed with caution. He did not discount the economic and technological importance that 5G could bring to our country, but Mark did warn that he did not believe technology had advanced enough to adequately protect the roughly 30,000 entities currently utilizing the mid-band frequency for content distribution.

Without fail, each representative was very attentive, though non-committal. Mark and I passed along our Ex-parte as well as supporting materials. We spoke. They thanked us for taking the time to share our stories. We thanked them for granting us an audience. We left.

IN THE FOLLOWING WEEKS

Through subsequent meetings with Intelsat and SES, Mark and I have kept up with how the voluntary C-band registration process was proceeding. We learned that:

  • More broadcast companies were filing their Ex-parte with the Commission
  • FCC Commission Chairman Pai was still planning to advance the Notice for Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding the sharing of 3.7-4.2 GHz at the July 12 monthly Commission meeting.
  • C-band downlink registrations were coming in, but clearly not at the numbers that broadcast industry leaders expected.
  • And 5G proponents were continuing to urge the FCC to “fast-track” their decision and allow broadband unfettered access to C-band’s mid-band frequency.

THEN, THERE WAS THIS!

A reprieve, of sorts came in the form of an FCC Public Notice. On Thursday, June 21, the government agency announced:

  • A 90-day extension to the filing window for fixed-satellite downlinks currently operating in the 3.7-4-2 GHz frequency (C-band). The date for the voluntary filing to be completed had been July 18; it has now been pushed back until October 17, 2018. This is a big deal – an unprecedented decision on the part of the FCC.
  • The option of “batch filing” geographically diverse earth stations by filing a single application that includes an addendum listing all C-band downlinks being registered and paying a single fee currently set at $10,620 (fee code BGV).
  • A clarification from the FCC: multiple downlink C-band antennas in a single location – like the same address – can be filed by using just one Form 312 and paying a single fee of $435 (for non-profits, the fee is waived).

The fact that the FCC has made accommodations and extended the window for filing is heartening. However, in spite of the extension, Commissioners are still scheduled to hear Chairman Pai’s Notice for Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on July 12.  We’ll know more about Pai’s intent then.

Let’s take a moment to relish this victory. We DO have a voice in this process. Our concerns ARE being heard by the FCC. And we at LinkUp continue to strongly encourage everyone who receives their programming via C-band let the FCC know you want are there. Protect the quality of your programming feeds. REGISTER.

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