Pai Asks Congress to Repeal T-Band Mandate, Suspends License Renewals
Monday, December 02, 2019 | Comments

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement asking Congress to repeal the mandate to auction T-band spectrum and allow public-safety officials to continue using the UHF spectrum, while also suspending T-band license application processing to allow for a 2021 auction of the spectrum.

“In 2012, Congress passed legislation requiring the FCC to reallocate and auction T-band spectrum used for decades by public-safety licensees and fund the relocation of those licensees elsewhere,” Pai said. “The agency has extensively analyzed the T-band and concluded that moving forward is not viable. Relocation costs for public-safety licensees would likely far exceed any potential auction revenue, making it impossible to fund the relocation and comply with the mandate. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed, reporting to Congress that the T-band mandate is unworkable and could deprive first responders of their current ability to communicate by radio.”

He said repealing the mandate would “also allow our dedicated auction staff to focus in 2020 on auctions that will make new airwaves available for 5G, like spectrum in the 3.5 and 3.7 GHz bands.”

However, the FCC also released a public notice that it will not grant applications to renew Part 22 and Part 90 licenses for operation in the 470 – 512 MHz T-band spectrum. In 2012, to stabilize the spectral environment in light of the T-band mandate, the FCC suspended acceptance and processing of certain other T-band applications.

“… the T-band mandate remains the law of the land, and the commission is required to implement it,” the notice said. “Given that the Feb. 22, 2021, statutory deadline is less than 15 months away, the bureaus have determined that suspension of renewal processing is now necessary for the commission to have the full range of implementation options available.”

Wireless use of the T-band consists of otherwise unused broadcast spectrum in TV channels 14 – 20 in 11 cities. The spectrum contains about 925 public-safety entities and 700 industrial/business entities.

A June 21 report from the GAO recommended that Congress pass a law allowing public-safety users to continue using the T-band spectrum for emergency communications.

Last month, Five senators reintroduced the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act, legislation that repeals the provision of the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that directed the FCC to auction this band of spectrum by 2021. Rep. Eliott Engel introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The FCC's public notice is here. Pai’s statement is here.

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