Sprint Nextel, Broadcasters Have Until Monday to Give More Comments to FCC on Spectrum Relocation

Commission reviewing request, has already extended deadline to April 19

Filed at 4:17 p.m. EST on March 6, 2009

Broadcasters and Sprint Nextel will need to weigh in by Monday if they have anything more to say on the subject of the relocation of electronic-newsgathering spectrum from current channel assignments to new ones to make room for advanced wireless services.

Comments are due March 9 on the joint request by broadcasters and Sprint Nextel last month to move the March 5, 2009, deadline to Feb. 7, 2010. They cited the impacts of weather, broadcaster bankruptcies, delays in the DTV transition and the general complexity of the project in asking for the delay.

The FCC on Feb. 27 moved the deadline by 45 days to April 19 to give the commission more time to review the request.

The FCC has already moved the date a number of times. The initial deadline had been September 7, 2007.

If granted, it would be the latest extension in a years-long effort by the government to allow new services to share the 2-gigahertz band with broadcasters, which use it to transmit news, sports and other programming from the field to the TV studio for editing. That relocation is possible because broadcasters will need less of the band when broadcasting in more spectrum-efficient digital.

Last March the FCC agreed to extend the deadline for the move to March 5, 2009.

In that request Sprint Nextel, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television asked for an extra 29 months past a Sept. 7, 2007, deadline, which the FCC extended while it considered the request, then granted two more extensions, with the most recent expiring March 5, 2008.

The FCC decided to give them until March 5, 2009, or 18 months past that deadline. But even then it left open the option of extending that deadline even further, which broadcasters and the wireless company say is necessary.

The commission at the time conceded that the relocation has been more complicated and challenging than initially anticipated. "We must also consider that broadcast entities are already heavily involved in preparing for the DTV transition, which will occur Feb. 17, 2009," the commission said, which was true at the time. "We believe it is prudent to set a date beyond the DTV-transition date for the completion of the relocation."

Sprint Nextel has been working with traditional broadcasters to convert their ENG operations from analog to digital microwave technology as part of a $4.8 billion spectrum deal it brokered with the FCC in February 2005. The wireless operator agreed to spend more than $500 million replacing existing microwave technology with new digital gear that operates in a smaller swath of the 2-GHz spectrum.

Glen Dickson contributed to this report.