T-Mobile has volunteered to pay for affected low-power stations to move to temporary channels in order to clear broadcast spectrum as quickly and equitably as possible following the incentive auction.
That came in a voluntary proposal for a Supplemental Reimbursement Program submitted to the FCCMonday, a step LPTVs saw as a positive sign.
"I am writing to inform you of a voluntary commitment that T-Mobile USA, Inc.('T-Mobile') is making to compensate certain low power televisions stations that operate on a secondary basis and are unable to obtain a permanent channel in time to accommodate T-Mobile’s rapid deployment of broadband service in the 600 MHz band," said T-Mobile. "As detailed more fully below, T-Mobile is offering to pay the reasonable costs associated for such stations to move from a temporary channel to a permanent channel. While these stations are required to vacate the 600 MHz band when the broadband provider is ready to initiate service, T-Mobile recognizes that some of these stations may need to move twice, and T-Mobile is willing to go beyond what is required and compensate these stations for the additional move."
The double move would be required because the FCC may not have identified new channels for the stations before T-Mobile is ready to take over their old ones.
LPTVs can file for a new channel in a special "displacement" window, but that does not open until November. In some areas, that would be after T-Mobile's planned deployment, so they would have to relocate to a temporary channel until the displacement window opened. T-Mobile says they should not have to pay for two moves, so it will cover the first, though it points out such double payments are fully consistent with the law, meaning it does not have to help out the LPTVs but will.
T-Mobile, the biggest bidder in the auction, said it plans to have at least 10 MHz of spectrum ready for deployment across more than a million square miles by the end of the year.
"Our Coalition applauds T-Mobile in doing the right thing in assisting displaced by the auction LPTV stations from having to incur the costs of moving twice in response to the T-Mobile rapid deployment of the spectrum they won in the auction," said Mike Gravino, director of the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition. "While not a panacea for all of the problems and inequalities of the auction and repack, this commitment by T-Mobile to assist some of the most vulnerable LPTV is most welcomed."
The FCC created the displacement window to help find new spectrum homes for LPTVs and translators, but they are not protected in the repack, meaning that if the FCC runs out of spectrum, they could go off the air.
T-Mobile has already agreed to cover the expenses of public TV's low-power translators that have to move following the auction to make way for wireless forward auction winners—T-Mobile was the largest—to move in.
"NAB is gratified by the T-Mobile announcement, which recognizes the important role that low power TV stations play in providing quality entertainment and lifeline news and information to millions of TV viewers," said the National Association of Broadcasters in a statement.