C Band Satellite Dishes

The following advisory from our FCC attorney David Oxenford relates to the FCC’s use of the C Band earth stations. Many of you currently have C Band satellite dishes that you use to download programming. While to date you have not been required to license these dishes, the FCC is doing a survey to find out how many dishes there are in use and what the implications will be if they grant additional use of this spectrum.

Please read David’s advisory below as it addresses many issues or concerns you might have. Please note that if you are using this dish you should register them by July 18.

C Band Satellite Dishes

By David Oxenford
Partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

The FCC is looking at the potential for using this spectrum for more extensive mobile and fixed wireless broadband services. Before moving further in investigating future uses, the FCC is looking to determine who is already using the spectrum. As parties who have receive-only C-Band dishes are currently not required to register (though registration does accord them some protection from microwave users in the band), the FCC currently has no information about the total universe of users. So the FCC has imposed a freeze on the filing of registrations for new users of the spectrum, but allowed existing users to register on or before July 18.

Q: I’ve heard that the FCC is requiring all broadcasters with C-Band earth stations to register their dishes with the FCC. Did they do that?

A: On April 19, the FCC imposed a freeze on the filing of new registrations for dishes operating between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz, as well as on applications for new fixed microwave licenses (a service that shares the band). However, the FCC said that, between April 19 and July 18, those who had dishes in operation using the spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz would be allowed to register their existing dishes with the FCC.

Q. Why is this request being made?

A. The FCC is looking at the possibility of allowing greater use of fixed and mobile services in this spectrum for wireless broadband purposes. Before making any decision to allow new services, the FCC wants to know who is already using the band. Registration provides information about other users.

Q. Do I have to register? Does registration give me any benefits?

A. There is no requirement that a receive-only earth station be registered, but registration does provide some protection against new microwave users of the same spectrum. However, the FCC said in its April 19 Public Notice that, should the FCC decide to allow more uses of the spectrum in the future, it may “chose to take into consideration only those earth stations that are licensed, registered, or have pending application for license or registration on file …as of July 18, 2018.” That means that, should interfering uses be permitted, it is possible that unregistered users will get no protection or consideration whatsoever. The FCC does also note, however, that all users of the band (registered or not) will be subject to any changes that the FCC decides to make in the future. So changes could be in store for all users, but unregistered users are most likely to get no protection.

Q. What does it cost?

A. To register, you need to pay an FCC filing fee of $495. In addition, you will need to pay the cost of an engineer to prepare the application. Normally, such applications would need to have a frequency coordination report showing that the newly registered facility is not an issue for any existing users of the spectrum (like for one of those already existing microwave users). However, the FCC decided to waive the requirement for frequency coordination on the applications filed before the July 18 deadline, saving broadcasters and other earth station users significant money and time. However, the authorizations may have a condition that, depending on the decision in the proceeding, such coordination may be required to keep the authorization at some point in the future.

Q. What if I have registered a dish that I no longer use?

A. The FCC notes that there may well be earth stations registered in the past that are no longer in use, or are no longer located at the registered location. The FCC notes that not updating or cancelling such a registration is a violation of the rules. If you have a registration that is no longer accurate, it would seem that this is the time to clean up that registration.

Q. Where do I get more information?

A. The FCC’s April 19 Public Notice is here: https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0419/DA-18-398A1.pdf. That notice lists contact people at the FCC to call for more information. Most consulting engineers are also now aware of this new deadline.