The FCC took another significant step in the C-Band reallocation process, releasing its Final Cost Category Schedule for Relocation Expenses of C-Band (3.7-4.2 GHz) satellite licensees. The Public Notice accompanying the cost schedule also established August 31, 2020 as the deadline for C-Band earth station licensees to elect whether they wish to receive a lump sum reallocation payment.
Earlier this year, the FCC voted to clear 280 MHz of spectrum that will be used for new wireless services. A key component in clearing the spectrum is the reimbursement of expenses for the existing licensees that must now move to the remaining 200 MHz of spectrum reserved for satellite services. The FCC has taken numerous steps to identify the number of licensees that require relocation and reimbursement, including the recent publication of a final draft list of earth station licensees eligible for relocation expenses.
The release of the cost schedule is a significant step for the FCC in its effort to provide relocation expense estimates, and permits those relocating C-Band earth stations to determine whether they should elect to receive a lump sum payment, or seek reimbursement for their actual relocation costs. Earth station licensees that elect to receive lump sum payments can use these funds to either (i) relocate to the 4000-4200 MHz band, or (ii) acquire alternative technology (i.e., fiber), as best serves their needs.
To that end, the FCC’s cost schedule established the following Base Lump Sum Payments for each earth station antenna that is registered with the FCC:
- Receive-Only Earth Station with a Single-feed Antenna – $8,948;
- Receive-Only Earth Station with a Multi-feed Antenna – $16,997;
- Small Multi-beam (2-4 beams) Earth Station Antenna – $42,062;
- Large Multi-beam (5+ beams) Earth Station Antenna – $51,840;
- Gateway Earth Station Antenna (bi-directional) – $20,854; and
- Temporary Fixed Earth Station Antenna (e.g., mobile ENG trucks) – $3,060.
In response to confusion among parties that submitted comments on the FCC’s draft cost schedule, the Commission made clear that eligible earth station licensees will be able to seek a lump sum payment for each antenna that is specifically identified and included on their earth station license registration. The FCC released the final list of eligible licensees on August 3, 2020, establishing which earth station licensees are eligible for reimbursement, and reminding parties with red-light holds on pending applications to pay all required FCC fees by September 2, 2020, or be disqualified from participating in the reimbursement process.
Earth station licensees electing to receive the lump sum payment will need to submit their information through the FCC’s ECFS system in IB Docket 20-205 . In addition to providing the licensee’s basic information, the election notice requires confirmation of the total lump sum amount, whether the earth stations will be relocating to the remaining available spectrum or ceasing operations, and several certifications, including confirming that the licensee’s acceptance of a lump sum payment will release the FCC from all claims that the licensee may have with respect to the sufficiency of the amount received.
Earth station licensees should take a close look at the requirements for making the election notification, and consider whether the lump sum payment will be sufficient to meet their needs. In light of the FCC’s requirement that lump-sum payment recipients affirmatively release the FCC from all future claims for relief, earth station licensees should also closely review the cost schedule of estimated costs to determine if taking the FCC’s version of the standard deduction is a better option than itemizing their expenses.