FCC Outlines Unwanted T-Band Spectrum Auction

Congress is currently attempting to reverse its mandate to do so

The FCC has unanimously voted on the outlines of a spectrum auction that the FCC has unanimously signaled should not happen but, to be fair, it did not have much choice. 

That would be the relocation of public safety operations in the T-Band and its auction for wireless and/or broadcast use. The FCC has released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) outlining the process. 

Related: AT&T Asks Congress Not to Auction T-Band 

The relocation and auction was mandated by Congress back in 2012, but members of both parties now agree that was a mistake and there are legislative efforts to repeal that mandate, though none have passed yet to so the FCC has to continue down a path virtually no one wants it to go, as commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel points out in her statement accompanying the vote. 

“The agency does not have the authority to waive this statutory requirement, even if under present circumstances this auction is clearly not in the public interest,” she said. “That is why I support today’s decision. It is, under present circumstances, necessary to comply with the law. However, I wholeheartedly agree with the Chairman that congressional action that would stop this auction and allow public safety authorities to continue to communicate using the T-Band is the best way forward.” 

Related: Pai Pushes Hill to Scrap T-Band Auction ASAP

FCC chairman Ajit Pai is all for freeing up or sharing spectrum currently in government hands for 5G, but that is not the case with the T-Band. Nonetheless, the FCC is under a congressional mandate and Pai circulated the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking back in May.

Related: FCC Grants More T-Band to First Responders 

The NPRM points out that the auction is not expected to make enough to cover the cost of relocating first responders (estimated at between $5 billion and $6 billion) and that the Government Accounting Office has concluded that the T-Band mandate could” deprive first responders of their current ability to communicate by radio.” In a report to Congress, GAO said the mandate was unworkable and inadvisable. 

Congress is expected to eventually pull the plug, but the longer it takes the more money and effort will be wasted going down a dead-end path.