Estimates that it could take up to 11 years to repack TV stations after the broadcast spectrum auction are not far-fetched and will depend on the number of stations that the FCC ultimately includes in the auction, according to the author of a controversial study.
"Based on the information we got from the FCC, the assumptions we made are reasonable," said Myra Moore, president of Digital Tech Consulting in Dallas and lead author of the NAB-backed study. She acknowledged that "if only 290 to 450 stations have to be moved, then the FCC's 39-month timetable could be reached."
"You can look at it in a different way. But we think it will be many more stations than that," Moore told B&C, noting that a precise estimate cannot be done until the auction is completed.
At a conference in New York earlier this week, Howard Symons, vice chair of the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force, said that the FCC would "stand by our analysis."
"We will look at the [DTC] report and monitor what is put on the record in response to it," Symons said.
Moore said that DTC's "Broadcast Spectrum Repacking Timeline, Resource and Cost Analysis Study" looked at the FCC's plan of how much spectrum it plans to clear.
"We then made assumptions about how many stations would have to move to another channel," she explained. In particular, she pointed to the study's "Alternate View of Time Analysis" that quantifies the repacking time frame under "best case" conditions. In that section, DTC examined various timetables based on the scale of the auction.
Much of the FCC's requirement for a 39-month repacking process stemmed from an earlier report from Widelity Inc.
"The Widelity report is actually very well done," Moore said, noting that "some things that have transpired since it was published" have affected the timing process. In particular she noted that earlier report focused on individual stations, not on a "holistic, industry-wide transition."
"It didn't take into account what will happen if there are hundreds of stations all doing this at the same time with the resources available to the industry," Moore said.