PITTSBURGH, May 15, 2020 – Yesterday, ACA Connects submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) providing a series of important recommendations related to the reimbursement of C-Band incumbents that will incur costs as they vacate a portion of the band to make room for new users, including 5G wireless services.
ACA Connects’ comments responded to a Public Notice of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) seeking comment on the preliminary cost category schedule for 3.7 – 4.2 GHz Band relocation expenses (“cost catalog”). This Public Notice has no reply round.
In the FCC’s C-Band order of March 3, the agency made clear that incumbent users of the band who are impacted by its repurposing are entitled to reimbursement of their actual, reasonable relocation costs.
“With our filing, we’re doing our part to help the FCC keep its word to ACA Connects members and other incumbent earth stations users,” ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. “These users were promised they would be fully reimbursed for their reasonable relocation costs for activities they need to undertake to maintain substantially the same service to their customers during and after the transition as before. We know the FCC meant it.”
The FCC’s order also directed the WTB to establish a cost catalog of the types of expenses that incumbents may incur.
The cost catalog is important because it provides guidance to the Relocation Payment Clearinghouse and other stakeholders on transition costs eligible for reimbursement; to stakeholders regarding the scope of potential relocation activities; to the WTB regarding the establishment of lump sum categories and amounts; and to incumbent earth station operators to make their elections whether to accept the lump sums.
In the comments, which included a report by ACA Connects’ consultant Cartesian, ACA Connects made the following recommendations to the WTB regarding the cost catalog:
· Maintain the cost categories that appear in the cost catalog, and the price ranges, expressly applicable to receive-only earth stations;
· Make clear that certain cost categories already included in the preliminary cost catalog applying to incumbents other than receive-only earth stations, and their presumed reasonable cost ranges, also are associated with receive-only earth stations to the extent such costs may be involved in the transition of such stations;
· Include cost categories that are missing in the cost catalog schedule that may reasonably be involved in the transition of some receive-only earth stations and provide a presumed reasonable range of costs for them;
· Include an MVPD receive-only earth station category for lump sum election purposes because the preliminary lump sum categories in the cost catalog, based primarily on antenna size, do not appropriately reflect the particular characteristics of the “average” MVPD receive-only earth station; and
· Include a lump sum amount of $764,500 for the MVPD receive-only earth station category, which is based on conservative assumptions reflecting sufficiently common elements of the transition of MVPD earth stations to the upper 200 megahertz of the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band.
“We appreciate that the FCC in its March Order provided ACA Connects members and other incumbent earth station operators the choice to either accept reimbursement for the reasonable relocation costs by maintaining satellite reception or a lump sum reimbursement for all of their incumbent earth stations based on the average, estimated costs of relocating all of their incumbent earth stations,” said Polka. “Many ACA Connects members believe that choosing the lump sum could allow them to make decisions that better accommodate their needs, such as deciding to use the money to interconnect their existing earth stations with fiber to maintain substantially the same service levels or better.”
ACA Connects also urged the Bureau to hold off on finalizing the cost catalog until after the space station operators submit their final Transition Plans by August 14, 2020, and the Bureau and the public have had time to review the details and determine whether any additional modifications are needed to the cost catalog.
ACA Connects also noted that the Bureau should only finalize the lump sum categories and amounts after the Transition Plans are finalized so that incumbent earth station operators have as complete information as possible before making their election whether to accept lump sum payments or not.
In developing its recommendations, ACA Connects and Cartesian consulted with many ACA Connects members to gather information about their current operators and what steps they anticipate would be necessary to transition their earth station operations to the upper 200 megahertz of the band and maintain substantially the same service to their customers throughout. ACA Connects and Cartesian also reached out to several satellite operators, non-member cable operators, vendors, and programmers to discuss these subjects.
About ACA Connects: America’s Communications Association – Based in Pittsburgh, ACA Connects is a trade organization representing more than 700 smaller and medium-sized, independent companies that provide broadband, phone and video services to nearly 8 million customers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA Connects’ members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their businesses. For more information, visit: http://www.ACAConnects.org