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NRB, Vendors, Vote Against Competitive Bidding and Bulk Pricing

WASHINGTON — Monday is the last day to file comments on how a $1.75 billion fund to relocate broadcasters will be administered. The Federal Communications Commission extended the filing period to accommodate the closure of the federal government in October. The commission issued a Public Notice Sept. 23 proposing rules and methodologies for governing and administering the fund. They were written mindful of there being no way to know how far the money will have to be stretched.

The FCC has proposed several parameters, including bulk purchasing, volume discounts, channel- and facility sharing. Channel-sharing was mentioned in the National Broadband Plan. Virtually no broadcasters have publicly expressed interest in doing it. Radio Frequency Systems of Meriden, Conn., suggested that facility-sharing could be encouraged by identifying which stations could most easily consider doing so during the planning stage.

“The required antenna radiation pattern characteristic must be thee same for each broadcaster that shares an antenna,” RFS wrote in their comments. “…consideration should be given to maximizing the use of common azimuthal patterns whenever possible for facilities that could potentially be co-located.

Along with its Public Notice, the commission issued a “Catalog of Eligible Expenses,” which includes various transmitters, antennas, tubes, cables, mask filters and other equipment necessary to move a TV signal to a new frequency. Larcan, a transmitter manufacturer in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, noted that liquid-cooled, solid state transmitters were missing from the VHF transmitter category. Larcan said bulk-purchase pricing would also be a difficult proposition given that every broadcaster likely will need some level of customization.

“Prices are held in check by the market itself,” the company said. It also said competitive bidding would harm vendors.

“This would seriously hamper the already compressed timeline by placing significant added workload on already taxed staffs of both broadcasters and manufacturers.”

The National Religious Broadcasters echoed Larcan.

“The services and equipment necessary for our member stations to accomplish a channel reassignment are too customized to be eligible for bulk purchasing,” the NRB said in their filing. The group also said competitive bidding “may not be feasible for all stations.”

The NRB has suggested the FCC investigate the estimated cost of relocating a station before the auction to weigh against potential revenues gained from reassigning a license that would trigger one or more relocations.

“Accepting bids that would increase the number of stations that must relocate, and thus drive up the total cost of relocation beyond the limits of the reimbursement fund, would jeopardize a station’s ability to relocate, and directly violate the Spectrum Act’s mandate that the FCC preserve stations’ coverage area and population served,” the NRB said.

Reply comment are due Nov. 18.