Agency Should Ensure the Plans Have Real Teeth and Substance in Order to Foster a Successful Transition that Realizes the Agency’s Goals
PITTSBURGH, JULY 17, 2020 – Satellite operators’ individual plans for completing the transition of associated earth station services to the upper portion of the C-band are defective and raise concerns about the degree to which the satellite operators intend to fulfill their transition-related responsibilities, small and medium-sized cable television providers of ACA Connects told the Federal Communications Commission. ACA Connects explained that even where the satellite operators properly accept responsibility, their Transition Plans are not consistent with FCC rules.
In its comments, ACA Connects urged the FCC to carefully examine the Transition Plans and related filings of satellite operators SES Americom and Intelsat, which between them account for almost all C-band video programming delivery to pay television providers in the U.S. ACA Connects explained the satellite operators’ plans are deficient, despite the clarity with which the FCC outlined the satellite operators’ roles when they accepted the responsibilities, as well as financial rewards, associated with accelerated relocation under the C-band Order.
“Given the importance of the satellite operators having airtight plans in place for the transition, the FCC should have no problem about holding the satellite operators’ accountable for providing a detailed plan that meets the FCC’s requirements,” ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. “Importantly, these plans also help cable operators such as ACA Connects members know exactly what to expect and when, so they can also prepare fully for a successful transition.
“Let’s also not forget that the satellite operators are poised to receive billions of dollars for their roles in accelerating the C-band transition.” Polka said. “The FCC, as well as the thousands of operators on the ground whose video offerings to their customers depend on this going right, deserve more than documents that essentially say ‘trust us.’”
In its comments, ACA Connects called upon the FCC to direct SES and Intelsat to modify certain elements of their Transition Plans in order to fulfill the C-band Order’s requirement that the satellite operators provide their associated earth station operators with a “turnkey solution.” Specifically, ACA Connects asserted that the FCC must require SES and Intelsat to update their plans to expressly state their transition work includes all steps necessary to enable cable operators to provide the same video service quality during and after the transition as a result of technology upgrades. The FCC must also require Intelsat to update its Transition Plan by eliminating provisos that impermissibly shift the burden of performing certain transition work to its associated earth station operators.
ACA Connects further observed that even where the satellite operators’ initial Transition Plans properly accept their transition responsibilities, their unduly low transition budgets heighten concerns that the satellite operators will look to cut corners or shirk their transition responsibilities. In addition, although the FCC emphasized in the C-band Order that the Transition Plans must be detailed, ACA Connects’ review of them revealed that they fall short on providing some of the specified detail. To help the FCC ensure the adequacy and completeness of the plans, ACA Connects requested that the FCC enable it and other interested parties to comment on any further satellite provider proposed changes to the Transition Plans after they submit the ostensibly final versions.
Under a process set forth in the C-band Order, SES, Intelsat and other satellite operators have elected “accelerated relocation,” which enables them to receive payments that are worth billions of dollars in exchange for clearing the lower C-band on an expedited timeline. To receive these payments, each satellite operator is responsible for completing all actions and covering all costs associated with the transition of its own services, as well as the services of associated earth stations, out of the lower portion of the C-band.
In the C-band Order, The FCC assured cable operators that the transition would not disrupt the video service quality or reliability they offer to their customers today. That is, satellite operators responsible for the transition would have to ensure that the service cable operators offer to customers after the transition would be “substantially the same” as what they offer to them now, meaning that “the video quality of the end-to-end, programmer-to-viewer chain is at least as good as it is today.”
Having submitted the initial versions of their Transition Plans in June, the satellite operators are to amend the draft plans based on feedback received from interested stakeholders, and then resubmit them in final form by August 14, 2020.