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FCC extends BAS deadline until April 19, seeks comment on yearlong extension

The Federal Communications Commission has extended the deadline for completion of the 2GHz BAS relocation project until April 19 and opened to public comment a request made by Sprint Nextel and a group of broadcast associations to delay the completion deadline until February 2010.

On Feb. 27, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology said it was seeking comments from interested parties on the request made by Sprint Nextel, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Association for Maximum Service Television and the Society of Broadcast Engineers to delay the project’s completion deadline until Feb. 7, 2010. Originally, the commission had set a September 2007 deadline for completion and extended the deadline after a series of short-term extensions until March 5, 2009. Last month, the parties jointly asked for the yearlong extension.

In asking for comments on the latest request to postpone, the OET said it would treat the proceeding as a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding. Under FCC rules, permit-but-disclose proceedings require that summaries of presentations made to the commission in the matter be placed into the record.

Aside from more efficient spectrum use, completing the 2GHz BAS relocation project is an important step for broadcasters wishing to initiate HD electronic newsgathering operations. The project entails transitioning all 2GHz BAS licensees to narrower digital channels from the old analog band plan. As part of a larger spectrum swap, Sprint Nextel is paying for the BAS relocation expenses, including new digital radios, antennas, controllers and labor.

On Feb. 12, Sprint Nextel and the broadcast groups asked for the extension and cited several reasons the project would not be completed by March 5. Those reasons included:

  • Congress’s extension of the DTV deadline until June 12, which will reprioritize technical resources — many of which are identical to those being employed for the BAS relocation
  • The complexity of a transition that entails as many as 965 primary BAS systems, each with a unique transition plan and equipment requirement
  • Weather delays and other emergencies ranging from early winter conditions in Cleveland to wildfires in the Los Angeles area
  • The need to reprioritize planned transitions based on the needs of two MSS licensees in 25 separate markets
  • Avoiding disruption of coverage of important news events, such as the 2008 presidential race

In last week’s public notice, the OET noted that the request for a 12-month extension “cites numerous circumstances that the parties characterize as being beyond Sprint Nextel’s and the broadcaster’s control and that will prevent completion of the BAS transition before the current deadline.”

Those wishing to file comments on the request must submit them on or before March 9. Reply comments are due on or before March 19. A copy of the request to postpone the deadline is available for public inspection at commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., during normal business hours, the OET said.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.