Dish Weighs Appeal of FCC Ruling on Vacant Orbital Slot

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PARIS — Satellite television broadcaster Dish Network Corp. on June 5 said it may appeal a U.S. regulatory decision denying Dish’s right to an orbital slot that the company has left vacant since mid-2009.

Englewood, Colo.-based Dish, through its Dish DBS subsidiary, said the $68 million in carrying value it had assigned for the 148 degrees west orbital location will be written off against the company’s second-quarter earnings.

“We are currently evaluating whether to challenge” the decision of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Dish said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Dish had access to 32 direct-broadcast satellite channels from the slot at 148 degrees west and had occupied the position until August 2009, when its EchoStar 5 satellite was retired.

The location has sat empty since then, with Dish telling FCC that it would decide at some future date what satellite would be moved there.

Initially Dish had planned to move EchoStar 8, at 77 degrees west in an orbital slot licensed by the Mexican government, into 148 degrees west following the SES’s QuetzSat-1 Satellite to Orbit “>launch of the QuetzSat-1 satellite, which Dish and sister company EchoStar have leased from SES of Luxembourg.

But since QuetzSat’s launch in September, Dish and EchoStar have changed their plans and now want QuetzSat to operate from a Brazilian-licensed position.

More recently, Dish told the FCC that its plans for 148 degrees west would be clarified once the EchoStar 16 satellite was in operations following its scheduled launch in August.

For the FCC, this was one delay too many. Permitting the company to maintain its operating license “would allow Dish to warehouse scarce orbit and spectrum resources,” the FCC said in its decision, published June 1.

Usual FCC procedure is to allow a satellite operator just 90 days to leave a slot vacant. Waivers to this policy are accepted in the event of launch or satellite in-orbit failures.

Dish had argued that since it had moved its EchoStar 5 customers to other satellites, and given that no other company had expressed an interest in 148 degrees west, it should be allowed to take its time to determine how to proceed.

The FCC rejected this argument, saying that leaving the 148 degrees west position unoccupied for more than three years demonstrates that it is not a priority for Dish and should be put back into the general pool.

The FCC said that when it lifts its freeze on new direct-broadcast satellite television license awards, Dish may reapply for a license to operate at 14+-8 degrees west along with anyone else who expresses an interest.