post-incentive auction TV channel repack will not resemble the one completed
for the 2009 digital transition, according to Rick Kaplan of the National
Association of Broadcasters.
“The DTV transition will be a walk in the part compared to the repacking
process that is part and parcel of this auction,” Kaplan said in written
testimony prepared for a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday. “The final
channel changes of the DTV transition involved the FCC repacking only about 100
stations.* Both viewers and broadcasters had more than five years to prepare
for the change, and each station had a second channel on which to ensure a
The incentive auction repack could displace as many as 500 stations, which will
have to flash-cut to a new frequency with as little delay as possible. The
shift will require precise coordination with pay TV providers and a
The full Commerce Committee announced the hearing on the incentive auctions the
day before the Federal Communications Commission chairman, Tom Wheeler, said
the event would be delayed by a year to mid-2015. Wheeler, who was confirmed as
chairman in late October, released the information in a blog entry that
reflected some of the concerns expressed by Kaplan and other NAB reps in ex parte
meetings at the
Kaplan and his team went to the FCC’s engineering division with objections over
the use of “proxy” channels to estimate coverage for stations displaced by the
incentive auction, when the top frequencies of the TV spectrum will be sold to
wireless providers. He is bringing the same concern before the Commerce Committee.
“Rather than measuring the actual interference a station will receive from
another station on the channel it will operate on after repacking, the FCC will
choose a different ‘proxy’ channel to measure interference,” his testimony
states. “This kind of approximation, however, cuts corners and could result in
a service loss or gain in a significantly large number of instances.”
He brought a warning of the inevitable phone calls should regulators get the
“Your constituents will have no idea whether their wireless provider acquired
an extra 10 MHz in the auction to add to its 135 MHz in their market, but I can
guarantee they will start dialing your phone numbers when they are suddenly no
longer able to receive the broadcast television stations they’ve relied upon
for years, if not decades.”
Kaplan reiterated the need for a new spectrum agreement with Canada and Mexico.
Without one, he said, stations could not be repacked within 150 miles of the
Mexican border an 250 miles of the Canadian border. He also put a plug in for
the protection of low-power TV stations and translators.
Kaplan is testifying alongside Gary Epstien, head of the FCC’s Incentive
Auction Task Force and special advisor to Wheeler; John Marsh, vice president
of regulatory affairs for AT&T; Hal Singer, senior fellow at the
Progressive Policy Institute; Steven K. Berry, president and CEO of the
Competitive Carriers Association; Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public
Knowledge; and Preston Padden, executive director of Expanding Opportunities
for Broadcasters Coalition—a group of station owners who wish to sell their
Padden distributed his prepared testimony before Wheeler announced the delay.
In it, he said the commission had not yet attracted enough TV stations
participants to make it successful. Padden advocates for monetizing “a
station’s spectrum based on the higher values present in the wireless industry.”
He opposes the FCC’s proposal to “score” stations based on population served,
and restricting participation by Verizon and AT&T, as some have suggested.
Smaller carriers want bidding restrictions on the big boys in order to have a
fighting chance at spectrum.
Padden also suggests that stations electing to share a 6 MHz channel (though
few have come forth) be given relief on covering their market of license. He
also said stations would be more likely to participate in the auction if they
had some idea where the bids would begin and when they would have to cease
operating on relinquished spectrum.
“The sooner the FCC can make his information available, the sooner more stations
will be seriously able to evaluate auction participation,” he said.
* Around 190 stations were operating
digitally in Chs. 52-69, the 700 MHz TV spectrum auctioned to wireless
providers in 2008. Of those, around 90 returned to their original analog
assignments below Ch. 52, while 100 had to be relocated.
December 6, 2013,
Delays Spectrum Auction Until 2015
“Getting the right policy and procedures for the auction is only half
the job,” he said. “For the incentive auction to be a success, we must also
ensure that the operating systems and software to run it work from the moment
the first bid is placed, until the final broadcast station is relocated or
December 2, 2013, “NAB
Challenges FCC’s ‘Reasonable Effort.
The FCC is proposing the use of “proxy” channels in calculating the reach of TV
stations relocated after next June’s spectrum incentive auction. The National
Association of Broadcasters says doing so would violate the Congressional
directive that “all reasonable effort” be made to preserve coverage.