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FCC Denies NTA Request to Delay Shutdown of Channel 52-69 TV Translators

As part of the DTV transition, broadcasters gave up channels 52 through 69 (108 MHz of spectrum), some of which are now being used for new 4G cell phone and broadband wireless services. Full power broadcasters had to vacate this spectrum in 2009 but low power TV and TV translator stations were allowed to continue using it until notified by the new "owner" of the spectrum that they were ready to use it. That changed with the release of Second Report and Order (FCC 11-110), which requires LPTV and TV translator licensees on these frequencies to file displacement applications by Sept. 1, 2011 and cease operation above channel 51 by Dec. 31, 2011.

Last week the FCC adopted Order (DA 11-1375), denying a Motion to Stay from the National Translator Association (NTA) that said these deadlines are "unreasonably abrupt and unworkable." NTA said the deadlines are unnecessary because an effective procedure is already in place that allows deployment of new services on these channels.

Verizon Wireless, which holds licenses in this band, filed an Opposition to Motion to Stay arguing that LPTV stations have been on notice for more than five years that they needed to vacate the 700 MHz band and that stations' failure to timely seek a new channel does not justify a stay. Verizon said wireless carriers and public safety operators need a date certain by which the band will be cleared.

The FCC found that the NTA did not meet any of the four criteria required to qualify for the "extraordinary remedy of a stay." It also states, "The deadlines established in the Second Report and Order are not arbitrary and capricious as NTA contends. First, NTA's suggestion that out-of-core licensees are somehow precluded from filing for an in-core channel until the effective date of the requirement for which it seeks a stay is simply wrong. Low power television licensees on out-of-core channels have been authorized to file displacement applications for over ten years. We also believe that the established deadlines are reasonable given the abundant notice given to out-of-core licensees of the need to vacate the 700 MHz band."

The NTA argued that even if a station were to meet the Sept. 1 filing deadline, since applications need to be placed on public notice for 30 days prior to grant, it is unlikely construction could be completed by the end of the year because "a licensee would be foolhardy to order equipment before its application is granted" and construction at many sites "becomes difficult due to inclement weather after October." The FCC denial notes that the Commission has directed the Media Bureau to give priority to displacement applications filed by out-of-core licensees and provided that stations can obtain an emergency STA to begin operating on the proposed channel while the displacement application is being processed.

Refer to the FCC Order referenced earlier for additional FCC arguments against the NTA Motion to Stay.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.