Vermont congressional delegation asks Secretary of State to seek new spectrum agreement with Canada

The Congressional delegation from the state of Vermont on Jan. 19 asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to explore a new agreement with Canada on frequency coordination to head off loss of off-air reception of TV stations in the event Congress authorizes the FCC to conduct incentive auctions and repacks the television spectrum.

In a letter to Clinton, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) explained that a repacking of the TV band may "have devastating impacts" on stations along the Canadian border without a new agreement with U.S. neighbor.

The letter points out that the consequence of spectrum repacking may be similar to what stations along the border experienced in making the transition from analog to digital television a reality.

"The transition to digital television brought new challenges for border stations when American stations moved to new channels. Unfortunately, some stations in Vermont were required to operate at reduced power following the transition in order to prevent interference with Canadian signals," the letter said.

Resolving the international coordination issues raise by repacking can only be done through international negotiation, the letter said.

Saying that access to free broadcast TV "is more important than ever," the letter spells out the benefits Vermonters derive from television. "Broadcast stations provide news, weather, and emergency information that is specifically tailored to the regions they serve. Severe weather is a way of life in Vermont and the alerts that come from broadcast stations are crucial in giving citizens and towns advance notice," the letter said.

Congress is due to act early in March on legislation that would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to conduct voluntary incentive auctions with the goal of clearing 120MHz of TV spectrum for future wireless broadband Internet service. The approach, spelled out in the commission's National Broadband Plan, would require a repacking of TV spectrum following the auction to make available contiguous swaths of spectrum. Broadcasters and other spectrum incumbents participating in the auction would share in the auction proceeds under the plan.

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.