The National Association of Broadcasters and tech powerhouse
Harris Corp. told the FCC Monday that there could be chaos unless broadcasters
have the flexibility to take more than three years after spectrum auctions to
relocate and repack their signals.
The FCC held a workshop on its design of a program to
reimburse broadcasters for channel relocations after the FCC reclaims some
broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband through reverse auctions, and the
general agreement was that the FCC needed to provide sufficient opportunity for
planning of those moves.
In introducing the panel discussion, which was moderated by
the Media Bureau's Rebecca Hanson, Bureau Chief Bill Lake said the FCC's goals
in coming up with a plan and spending up to $1.75 billion to do so were
simplicity, promptness and fairness. He said the reimbursement was not meant to
be Christmas or winning the lottery. He also said the workshop was more about
teeing up the right questions to ask when the FCC issues its first notices of
proposed rulemaking this fall.
Currently, the deadline for the FCC and broadcasters to
complete what amounts to a second DTV transition is within three years after
the end of the auction. While that deadline was set by Congress, Jane Mago, who
represented the National Association of Broadcasters, said the FCC could
ultimately control the time period by tying the end of the auctions to when
broadcasters had had sufficient time to plan for their moves, which would be
after the FCC made it clear how many stations were moving and where they would
be going. Making the end of the auction when everyone has full knowledge of
what is going on "might not be a bad definition," said Mago.
That was seconded by Harris Corp. VP Jay Adrick, who
suggested that three-year deadline could not start until 18-24 months after the
auction bidding had filled in those blanks, or there would be
Among the questions the FCC said needed to be answered was
whether and how much of the funding should be in advance and how much in
arrears. Most of the workshop panelists agreed that some smaller stations,
noncoms, religious, others, would need money in advance.
Another was whether that should be an exact payment or
receipts, or in "bands" or ranges of payments.
Simplicity may be one of the FCC's goals, but Adrick made it
clear what kind of complexity the commission must deal with. There will be
tower studies, permits, testing, zoning issues, not to mention, though Mago and
Adrick did more than once, the limited number of crews -- 14 in the nation says
Adrick -- that have the expertise to work on tall towers (1,000-2,000 feet).
Another reason Mago gave for not rushing broadcasters was
that when smaller companies with less tall-tower experience had been enlisted
to help with tower revamps in the first DTV transition, in some cases lives were
One of the reasons for building plenty of planning time into
the relocation, said Mago and Adrick, who were clearly on the same page was
that the technology would need to be tailored to different stations' needs to
replicated their coverage areas. Mago conceded that stations might be able to
replicated that coverage exactly--the statute says the FCC ahs to do its
best--that still needed to be pretty close. Brett Haah, of consulting firm
Deloitte, said that another reason was that planning would give stakeholders
confidence in the process. Patrica Tillala, VP, of spectrum, for Verizon,
wasn't as high on broadcasters extending that three years. She said that
wireless buyers of spectrum needed to be able to do planning of their own.
Adrick had plenty of other complications--and expenses--for
the FCC to ponder, including insurance, power to temporary facilitates so
broadcasters could stay on their while they were being relocated, manufacturing
capacity, the need for either larger antennas or more powerful transmitters and
broadcasters moved to lower bands.
Adrick said that until it was determined how many stations
were moving, when they were moving, and where they would have to move, they
were just dealing with conjecture.