Commission Report and Order clears way for DBS license auction

The FCC published a Report and Order on its Web site late last week finding, among other things, that the ORBIT Act does not exclude the Commission from auctioning off direct broadcast satellite (DBS) licenses for orbital positions assigned to the United States by the International Telecommunications Union.

In March 2003, the Commission announced in a Public Notice that licenses would be granted to the winners of Auction No. 52 for the DBS slots. Three months later the Wireless Telecommunication Bureau delayed Auction No. 52 until the Commission resolved specific issues addressed in the Report and Order released Jan. 15.

Last week’s action covers licenses for three western orbital slots, 175 degrees W.L., 166 degrees W.L. and 157 degrees W.L. It did not address whether restrictions are appropriate for a license to use two channels at eastern orbit location of 61.5 degrees W.L. The Commission deferred resolving that question to a subsequent order.

Prior to the Report and Order, the Commission had issued a Public Notice on two issues related to Auction No. 52. The FCC sought comment on Congressional enactment of Section 647 of the ORBIT Act prohibiting the Commission from opening to competitive bidding the assignment of orbit locations or spectrum “for the provision of international or global satellite communications services.” The Commission also sought comment on whether eligibility restrictions were appropriate for Auction No. 52.

In its Report and Order, the Commission found that the ORBIT Act prohibition on bidding for global satellite service license was not inconsistent with allowing the auction to proceed because the licenses in question are for DBS assignments that according to the ITU Region 2 Band Plan have coverage patterns that are designed to and do serve the United States almost exclusively.

The Commission also concluded that the FCC’s “DISCO I decision did not change the fact that the ITU Region 2 Band Plan provides for service to the United States, with only incidental coverage outside the United States, from the eight orbit locations assigned to the United States under the Plan, and that DBS providers that operate under licenses for these eight DBS orbit locations must comply with the technical parameters of the ITU Region 2 Band Plan.”

The WTB will resolve all the procedural issues relating to Auction No. 52 on which the commission sought comment, the Report and Order said.

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