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NAB president expresses thanks for key provisions of Public Safety Spectrum Act

NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith in a letter July 12 expressed gratitude to U.S. Reps. John Dingell (D-MI) and Gene Green (D-TX) for key provisions in the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act aimed at preserving “the ability of all Americans to continue to receive a robust, free, over-the-air television signal.”

The act (H.R. 2482) lays the groundwork for the nation’s first responders to deploy a state-of-the-art communications system and empowers the FCC to take steps aimed at making possible deployment of robust broadband service, including wireless Internet service.

In its National Broadband Plan, the FCC detailed plans for clearing 120MHz of television broadcast spectrum through the use of voluntary incentive spectrum auctions that would allow TV licensees that freely choose to give up some or all of their 6MHz channel to share in the proceeds generated by auctioning that spectrum.

H.R. 2482 would give the FCC the authority to conduct voluntary incentive auctions, with certain limitations important to broadcasters. Smith expressed gratitude for a provision of the act that would prohibit the commission from conducting more than one incentive auction for frequencies currently used for DTV broadcasting. The limitation “provides certainty to television broadcasters and those investing in broadcast stations,” the letter said.

Another important tool to clear spectrum in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan is repacking the spectrum devoted to over-the-air DTV transmission. Here, too, the bill limits what the FCC can do. “Broadcasters appreciate that H.R. 2482 seeks to preserve the availability of over-the-air signals both to viewers and cable system operators,” Smith said in the letter. “Your bill requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to replicate existing service areas, viewership and interference levels so that viewers will continue to have access to the television stations they’ve always watched if the FCC has to reassign stations to new channels.”

Smith also expressed the industry’s appreciation of two other provisions of the bill. One will prevent the FCC from involuntarily moving TV stations from the UHF band — a limitation that should make mobile DTV service roll out easier — and the other assures broadcasters that they will be reimbursed for any cost resulting from channel reassignment or mitigating “adverse impact as a result of another station’s move.”