Tower Guy to Hill: Post-Auction Repack Should Not Be Rushed

Marketplace, not pre-set deadlines, should drive timetable

Congress should not rush the timetable for repacking close to a thousand TV stations, a representative of the National Association of Tower Erectors has told Congress.

That is according to his testimony for a Sept. 7 House hearing on the post-incentive auction repack.

Currently there is a 39-month deadline for repacking close to a thousand TV stations into smaller spectrum quarters and freeing up all that spectrum for wireless broadband, but broadcasters have said that will likely not be enough time to make all those moves.

Related: Court Upholds FCC Nixing of Dish-Related AWS-3 Credits

Jim Tracy, chairman of the NATE, said a "perfect storm" workload has developed for his members given the repack and its broadcast tall tower and cellular tower work, plus the simultaneous rollout of the FirstNet emergency broadband first responder network and perhaps also tower marking requirements under a new FAA authorization.

"[T]here is one inescapable fact: there are not, at present, enough qualified workers to perform all the tower work we will be required to complete," he said.

Related: LPTVs Air Repack Grievances to House Panel

Tracy said the industry will recruit and train to expand the size of the workforce, but that takes time—some tall towers can reach 2,000 feet, and that in the interest of safety the marketplace should decide how long the repack takes.

"Our bottom line is that we want work to be done properly and efficiently, and that at the end of the day, we want our workers to come home safely," he said.