Complete Story
 

10/24/2017

Spectrum Repacking

 

About the Issue

The FCC completed its incentive auction of television spectrum that yielded 84 MHz that was acquired by wireless companies. The FCC is now in process of relocating or “repacking” nearly 1,000 stations to new channels over the next 3 years – including more than 50 stations in North Carolina. The FCC has assigned each repacked station to one of 10 “transition phases” with staggered completion deadlines for each transition phase.

In 2012, Congress established a $1.75 Broadcaster Relocation Fund to reimburse repacked stations, and the FCC established a 39-month deadline to complete the transition. Unfortunately, stations could incur more than $2 billion in repacking expenses. Further, circumstances beyond a station’s control—from access to equipment to available tower personnel to weather-related delays—could force stations off the air under the FCC’s current deadlines.

Unlike full power stations, the TV translator and other low-power stations that must be repacked are not guaranteed spectrum during the repacking process, and the FCC will let these stations apply for any remaining channels. The wireless and tech industries are supporting an effort to reserve certain TV spectrum for use by unlicensed “white space” devices before such spectrum is made available to TV translators and LPTV stations – a result that potentially could shut translators and LPTV stations out of certain markets.

Radio stations may also be impacted. For example, if a radio station shares a tower with a TV station that is being repacked, it could be forced off the air for a period of time while work is being performed for the TV station on the tower. There are estimated to be more than 600 radio stations that could be impacted by the repacking of TV stations – including more than 30 radio stations in North Carolina.

Broadcasters support legislation from Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), the “Viewer and Listener Protection Act” (S. 1632) that would authorize additional reimbursement funds for TV stations being repacked and would also require the FCC to extend the transition deadline by specific stations in the event of circumstances beyond the control of the station. North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D) is a cosponsor of a companion bill in the House.

The House Commerce Committee recently held a hearing on repacking challenges, and the wireless companies did not support broadcasters’ efforts to require the FCC to allow more flexibility for individual stations to complete their repacking due to circumstances beyond their control. Following the hearing, two Members of Congress – Reps. Anna Eschoo (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) circulated a letter to FCC Chairman Pai urging him to avoid any delay in the repacking process.

For these reasons, broadcasters must be continue to educate Members of Congress about the costs, burdens, and uncertainties of the repacking process – and the possibility of unreimbursed costs and/or loss of service to their constituents if a station cannot meet its repacking deadline.


What You Can Do

In the Senate, contact Senators Richard Burr (R) and Thom Tillis (R) and encourage them to cosponsor the Viewer Protection Act (S. 1632).

In the House, Congressmen Richard Hudson (R) and G.K. Butterfield (D) serve on the House E&C Committee, and they have been supportive of broadcasters’ efforts in the repacking process so far. It is important to contact all of the Members of the North Carolina Congressional delegation to advocate for additional spectrum reimbursement funds and a flexible completion schedule that does not penalize stations for circumstances beyond their control. Tell the story of how repacking will affect your station specifically and what the loss of service would mean for viewers.

Urge Members of Congress not to join the letter to the FCC from Reps. Eschoo and McMorris Rodgers.

You can find contact information for each Congressional office here.

How NCAB Can Help

Below are links to resources that will assist you in your communications with Members of Congress: