Sprint, Broadcasters Request BAS Delay

A week after Sprint told the FCC that the BAS transition was "making steady progress," the company, along with NAB, MSTV, and SBE asked the commission to extend the transition for another year.

In the filing with the FCC, Sprint and the broadcast associations cited a previous waiver granted by the Commission to extend the deadline to March 5, 2009, and asked for additional time, stating that the conversion program "remains a complex undertaking with new challenges and obstacles seeming to arise at every turn," and that in spite of best efforts by all involved, the work will not be completed by March of this year.

The filers said that granting an additional delay would be in the best interest, as such an extension would ensure that the transition would cause minimal disruption to existing BAS operations, which was consistent with both FCC and Congressional directives.

According to the filers, reasons for delay included inaccessible microwave sites, weather and natural disasters, availability of only a limited amount of skilled labor necessary to perform the work, an asbestos abatement situation and other handicapping factors.

The petition also mentioned the impact of the Commission’s extension for analog television broadcasting, saying that this delay "will seriously affect the availability of technical people," as it was previously expected that station personnel would be freed from off-air broadcasting transitions after Feb. 17 and that they could devote full time efforts to BAS taskings.

On the positive side, the petition enumerated the amount of progress that has been achieved thus far in the program, citing 22 markets that had been successfully converted.

The filers said that, for a number of reasons, all parties remain committed to completing the BAS transition as quickly as possible.

"Sprint seeks access to the 1.9 GHz spectrum rights. Broadcasters require electronic newsgathering (ENG) operations to switch to digital and wish to eliminate the potential for interference caused by new services to be deployed in the 1990-2025 MHz band. These incentives, along with the substantial progress to date, demonstrate that Sprint Nextel and the broadcast community continue to take all steps within their control to complete the BAS transition as expeditiously as possible."