FCC Previews C-Band Auction Procedures and Inmate Calling Services Reform for August Open Meeting

The FCC is slowing down from its busy summer going into August, with its next open meeting scheduled for August 6, 2020. Kicking off the meeting, the Commission anticipates adopting procedures for the auction of new flexible-use overlay licenses in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band (“C-band”), or Auction 107, which is scheduled to begin on December 8, 2020. The FCC would establish specific auction dates and procedures for the clock auction of 280 MHz of spectrum in the C-band. The agency will also consider an item on inmate calling services, responding to remands by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and proposing comprehensive rate reform for inmate calling services. The remainder of the agenda focuses on eliminating and streamlining existing FCC rules. Specifically, the Commission will consider two actions aimed at streamlining broadcast rules that would eliminate the radio duplication rule for AM stations and eliminate the common antenna siting rules for FM and TV broadcaster applicants and licensees. Finally, the Commission plans to repeal certain telecommunications relay service (“TRS”) rules that are no longer necessary given advances in technology since the rules were initially adopted.

You will find more details on the most significant August meeting items after the break:

C-Band Auction Procedures: The draft Public Notice would establish the procedures for Auction 107, the auction of new flexible-use overlay licenses in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band. It will be the FCC’s second auction of mid-band spectrum and is scheduled to begin on December 8, 2020. Auction 107 will offer 5,684 new licenses in the C-band, and the 280 MHz of spectrum available will be licensed on an unpaired basis in three blocks divided into 20 MHz sub-blocks by partial economic area (“PEA”) in the contiguous states and in D.C. The Commission would use an ascending clock auction format for bidding for each PEA, with an initial clock phase for bidding on generic blocks in successive rounds and a subsequent assignment phase for bidding on frequency-specific license assignments. The draft Notice details the FCC’s procedures, terms, conditions, dates, and deadlines for Auction 107, as well as the post-auction application and payment processes. Notably, the FCC would open the application filing window for auction participation on September 9, 2020 and close the window on September 22, 2020.

Inmate Calling Services Reform: The draft Report and Order on Remand and Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) would respond to remands from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on inmate calling services reform and propose further rate reforms. The Order would find that ancillary service charges, or separate fees that are not included in per-minute rates assessed for individual inmate calling services calls, cannot be segregated between interstate and intrastate jurisdictions, except in a limited number of cases. This determination would prohibit inmate calling service providers from imposing any charges for ancillary services, other than those charges permitted by the FCC’s rules, and would prohibit providers from imposing such charges that exceed the FCC’s ancillary service fee caps. The FNPRM would seek comment on further rate reforms of inmate calling services, proposing to lower the interstate rate caps to $0.14 per minute for calls from prisons and $.16 for calls from jails, and proposing to cap rates for international inmate calling services, which are currently uncapped. Comments on the FNPRM would be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, with reply comments due 60 days following publication.