FCC Won’t Include IRDs in C-Band Lump Sums

Move could land FCC in court

In a defeat for cable operators that could land the FCC in court, the commission’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has released the final cost catalog for C-band relocation expenses and lump sum elections and it will not compensate cable operators for integrated receiver/decoders (IRDS) as ACA Connects and other cable operators had pushed for. 

Related: ACAC Gives FCC Lumps Over C-Band Lump Sum Payments

Including the IRD costs would make it easier for cable ops to move to fiber delivery, but the FCC said the lump sum was meant to approximate the cost of moving earth stations, not moving to a new distribution technology. 

Broadcasters and programmers had opposed including the IRDS, so it is a win for that side. 

ACAC has threatened to sue the FCC if it excluded costs from the lump sum payment it is offering incumbent earth station operators to pay for moving off of their C-Band spectrum.  

IRDs receive and decode satellite signals from programmers and are needed if cable ops move earth stations, but not if they transition to fiber delivery.  

The FCC is clearing the lower 300 MHz of the 500 MHz C-Band satellite spectrum for auction to wireless carriers for terrestrial broadband. The incumbent users, including cable operators, are being compensated for their move out of that spectrum.  

Cable operators wanted the lump some to include payment for relocating all of their earth stations but be free to use it to transition some or all of their earth stations to fiber delivery instead. ACAC urged the commission “to give earth station operators flexibility to pursue alternative technology upgrade strategies if doing so would be more efficient.” 

Broadcasters teamed up with TV content companies–broadcast and cable programmers–to ask the FCC not to allow MVPDs to include IRDs in the lump sum. 

They argued that the expenses are properly assigned to programmers and satellite operators, not MVPDs. Categorizing IRD costs “would both artificially enlarge the amount of the “lump sum” payments available to MVPDs and undermine the goal of a timely, spectral-ly efficient transition that preserves viewers’ uninterrupted access to the most popular news, sports, entertainment, and other programming.” 

Related: FCC Rejects Second Petition to Stay C-Band Order

In releasing the catalog Thursday (July 30), the FCC said agreed with programmers that “the cost of integrated receiver/decoder equipment “is no more a cost of relocating the MVPD’s earth station than that of the ordering of new satellites.” 

“ACA argues that not including integrated receiver/decoder costs in the lump sum would ‘make it significantly more financially difficult for MVPDs to transition to any alternative technologies that are not dependent on the operator having [integrated receivers/decoders] at an earth station site.’ While the 3.7 GHz [C-Band] Report and Order acknowledges that ‘providing incumbent earth station operators flexibility may allow them to make efficient decisions that better accommodate their needs,’ it also recognizes “that replacing existing C-band operations with fiber or other terrestrial service may be…more expensive by an order of magnitude.” The 3.7 GHz Report and Order directs the Bureau to establish lump sum amounts based on the “average, estimated costs of relocating” incumbent earth stations, rather than to attempt to approximate the cost of transitioning to alternative transport.”