Alpine PCS, Inc. v. United States, No. 17-1029 (Fed. Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission awarded spectrum licenses to Alpine, for use in the provision of wireless telecommunications services. Alpine bid approximately $8.9 million for one license and $17.3 million for the other. As a small business, Alpine was eligible to pay in installments over the 10-year term of the licenses. Alpine’s failure to make required payments in 2002 triggered automatic cancellation under FCC regulations. In addition to taking other steps in response, Alpine sought relief from the FCC and, on review under the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 402(b)(5), from the District of Columbia Circuit. In 2016, Alpine filed this action against the United States under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), arguing that the FCC breached contractual obligations in canceling the licenses and that the cancellation was a taking for which Alpine was entitled to just compensation. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal by the Claims Court for lack of jurisdiction under the Tucker Act. The Communications Act provides a comprehensive statutory scheme through which Alpine could raise its contract claims and could challenge the alleged taking and receive a remedy that could have provided just compensation in this case, foreclosing jurisdiction under the Tucker Act.