Promoting Spectrum Policies that Serve the Public
Wireless companies and others claim that current amounts of spectrum allocated for high speed wireless Internet service are not sufficient to meet the expected increase in consumer demand over the next few years, and have urged the federal government to reallocate spectrum for future wireless broadband use. When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) staff released its National Broadband Plan, it reflected these arguments, calling for the reallocation of spectrum, including airwaves currently used by local television broadcasters.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently creating rules for the first time to conduct voluntary incentive auctions of spectrum, including broadcast TV spectrum, as authorized by Congress in 2012. NAB is working to ensure that the FCC implements the law as Congress intended and that broadcasters who do not volunteer are unharmed by the process.
The 2010 FCC National Broadband Plan recommended the reallocation of broadcast TV spectrum for wireless broadband use.
In 2012, Congress passed legislation that included language granting the FCC authority to hold spectrum incentive auctions. Congress incorporated provisions to safeguard local television stations during a voluntary incentive auction process. As directed by Congress, the incentive auction of broadcast TV spectrum will have three major interrelated parts, including:
A reverse auction in which some TV stations will submit bids to voluntarily relinquish some or all of their spectrum in exchange for payment;
A repacking of the broadcast TV band to free up a portion of the UHF band for alternative uses; and
A forward auction for those bidding on the newly available spectrum.
In 2012, the FCC issued a lengthy and complex rule-making notice regarding the auction process. In response, NAB filed comments saying that protecting viewers should be one of the FCC's central goals during the auction process. NAB has encouraged the FCC to coordinate closely with Canada and Mexico to ensure viewers in border areas are not harmed. Broadcasters have also asked the FCC to avoid interference between broadcasters and wireless carriers as it develops its new band plan for both services, and to ensure that broadcasters relocated during the repacking process are reimbursed for all reasonable costs in a timely and equitable manner.
NAB has made additional filings opposing the FCC's announced plans to alter the methodology used to calculate television stations population coverage and interference, which is contrary to the spectrum auction legislation.
Numerous members of Congress have weighed in urging the FCC to preserve a robust local broadcast system while executing a transparent auction process that follows the intent of Congress, including members of the Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington congressional delegations. Most recently, 23 bipartisan members of the Senate wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on the importance of low power television (LPTV) and translator services. In addition, 19 senators wrote to the FCC to urge sufficient international coordination prior to repacking local television stations. Twenty-one bipartisan members of the Senate also implored the FCC last November to preserve translator and low power television services in rural America. For millions of Americans in rural communities, free, over-the-air broadcast TV is the only way they receive local news and lifesaving information.
NAB continues to support truly voluntary spectrum incentive auctions that protect broadcasters electing not to participate and ensure viewers retain access to the local news, emergency information and quality programming on which they rely, and safeguard viewers ability to take advantage of broadcast innovations on the horizon. NAB is participating in the incentive auction rule-making proceeding and will continue to emphasize that:
A fully transparent process is critical to auction success;
Broadcasters that do not volunteer spectrum should retain their service areas so they may continue to serve their viewers and local communities;
The FCC should limit the number of stations affected by repacking to minimize viewer disruption;
A dedicated and stable broadcast band is essential to the broadcast industry's continued growth, innovation and service to viewers and impacted industries should have ample time to evaluate the auction rules and repacking procedures.
Congress should provide strong oversight to ensure that the FCC implements the voluntary incentive auction legislation as intended and that the viewer protections provided by the law are fully preserved.