Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has asked the FCC to protect low-power TVs and translators in the incentive auction.
In a letter to the chairman, DeFazio urged him to ensure that spectrum repacking does not negatively impact television translators and low-power television stations (LPTVs).
That will be a tall order. Except for the Class A low-powers, neither low-power stations or translators—which relay TV station signals over rough terrain—can participate in the auction or are protected from being forced off the air if that is necessary to repack full-powers and class A's after the auction.
FCC Media Bureau chief Bill Lake warned LPTV stations in February that the repack of stations after the auction would have a significant impact on LPTVs and translators, particularly in urban areas. Lake made it clear that the legislation creating the auction does not protect those stations in that repacking, and the FCC has decided not to use its discretion to extend protection to those stations, either. It also won't protect any Class A's that are not built out by a May 29 deadline.
But he did say that displaced stations would have options, including identifying a new channel, possibly share channels and more.
Using broadcasters' familiar emergency information argument, DeFazio told Wheeler: "Without translators and LPTVs, many of my constituents would be unable to access weather warnings, emergency alerts, or other crucial information that keeps them connected to the rest of the State and the country."
The FCC has various open proceedings related to LPTVs, the resolution of which will determine whether the LPTV industry sues the commission over the auction framework.
DeFazio took a constituent services tack in making his case for why the FCC should protect the stations."[M]any of these stations are owned and operated by local schools, churches, or small businesses in my district," he said. "These entities do not have the resources to reconfigure their broadcast capabilities if translators are significantly impacted by spectrum repacking. Rural and mountainous areas should not be left in the dark as a result of spectrum repacking. I urge the FCC to make it a priority to preserve access to quality over-the-air television no matter where a person lives."