Promoting Spectrum Policies that Serve the Public

Issue
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently creating rules to conduct voluntary incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum as authorized by Congress in 2012. NAB is working to ensure that the FCC implements the law as Congress intended, advocating for fair rules for broadcasters who choose to participate in the auction, as well as stations that remain on the air following the auction.

History
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:

  1. A reverse auction in which TV station volunteers will submit bids to voluntarily relinquish some or all of their spectrum in exchange for payment;
  2. A repacking of the broadcast TV band to free up a portion of the UHF band for alternative uses; and
  3. A forward auction for those bidding on the newly available spectrum.
That same year, the FCC issued a lengthy and complex rulemaking notice regarding the auction process.

NAB responded 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 method 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.

Twenty-three 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 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.

In 2014, the FCC voted to adopt an order setting forth certain initial rules for the auction. NAB expressed disappointment in the order, which does not ensure protection of broadcasters who choose not to participate in the auction. Numerous issues remain unresolved and will be addressed in forthcoming additional auction proceedings.

NAB led a petition for review challenging certain aspects of the FCC's order, in order to ensure that broadcasters electing not to participate in the auction are able to reach substantially the same viewers after repacking. NAB does not seek to prevent or delay the auction - only to protect broadcasters who remain on the air and the tens of millions of viewers who rely on over-the-air signals. The case has been fully briefed and argued, and we expect a decision in the coming months.

NAB Position
NAB continues to support a truly voluntary spectrum incentive auction that ensures 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 rulemaking proceeding to advocate for the best rules possible for those who choose to participate in the auction as well as those who do not. We will continue to emphasize that:

Action Needed
Congress must 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.

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