The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on a final order Feb. 28 to auction mid-band spectrum for use by providers of 5G wireless services, but the vote spurred some criticism from members of both parties in Congress. The auction is scheduled for December 2020.

The FCC, in a 3 to 2 vote, ordered that 280 megahertz of spectrum in the C-band be cleared no later than December 2025 so it can be repurposed for 5G providers. The spectrum is now used by satellite service providers, who are in line to receive $9.7 billion if they clear the spectrum early.

But Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC, expressed concerns with the legality of the auction.

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“Chairman Pallone remains concerned that the questionable legal basis for the satellite incentives will likely result in litigation, which will delay deployment of 5G,” said a committee spokesman. “This vote reiterates the need for legislation to spur the rapid rollout of 5G.”

Senate Republican John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana also disagreed with the FCC’s move.

“Shelling out billions for airwaves we already own is no way to handle taxpayer money,” he said in a statement. Foreign satellite companies would reap the benefits of the clearance incentives, Kennedy said, and “the FCC shouldn’t be helping them.”

Other Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee were more supportive. In a joint statement, committee members Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Bob Latta, R-Ohio, said the “C-band auction order is important progress toward making critical mid-band spectrum available for 5G services.”

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.