Utah congressional delegation urges Clyburn to give ‘meaningful attention’ to OTA viewers

The U.S. Congressional delegation from the state of Utah has asked FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn to be mindful of the impact of the agency’s incentive auction on the 54 million people nationwide and quarter of a million Utah households that reply exclusively on OTA television for news, public service announcements and entertainment.

The letter, dated July 1 and signed by Sens. Mike Lee (R) and Orrin Hatch (R) and Reps. Rob Bishop (R), Jason Chaffetz (R), Chris Stewart (R) and Jim Matheson (D), reminds the chairwoman that Utah “has many rural communities which rely heavily on broadcast television to obtain critical information.”

Further, it points out that there are 753 active TV translators used in Utah to relay signals, “none of which are owned by private entities.”

“We are concerned that the spectrum repackaging may have a detrimental impact on the ability of these communities to receive broadcast television, especially in cases of severe weather or emergencies,” the letter said.

Low power television stations and TV translators are not currently being considered as the FCC develops its band plan for post-auction TV spectrum usage. According to Byron St. Clair, president of the National Translator Association, there are some 5000 TV translators in use in the United States. Most bring television to remote, rural expanses of the country, but some are used to deliver OTA television to cities obstructed by mountains and other terrain features.

The letter also acknowledges the importance of the incentive auction and TV spectrum repack to the nation. “We recognize that this program is essential to America’s future,” it said. Use of wireless technology has grown “astronomically” and will that use “will only continue to rise,” the letter said.

“We commend the Commission for moving forward with the incentive auctions and hope the program will relieve the pressing needs of businesses, communities, and individuals. In moving forward, however, we strongly encourage the FCC to give meaningful attention to the Americans who are served by broadcast television, especially those living in rural areas, as it moves forward with the rulemaking process,” the letter said.