The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently creating rules to conduct, for the first time, voluntary incentive auctions of spectrum, including broadcast TV spectrum, as authorized by Congress last year.
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 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband use, with 120 MHz, or 20 channels, coming from the spectrum currently allocated to local television broadcasting.
In February 2012, Congress passed legislation that included language granting the FCC authority to hold spectrum incentive auctions. Congress incorporated provisions to safeguard local television service during a voluntary incentive auction process. As directed by Congress, the incentive auction of broadcast TV spectrum will have three major interrelated parts, including:
In September 2012, the FCC approved a lengthy and complex rulemaking notice to launch the auction process.
In January and March of 2013, NAB filed comments at the FCC noting that viewer protection should be of paramount importance during the auction process. NAB encouraged the FCC to coordinate closely with Canada and Mexico to ensure viewers in border areas are not harmed. Broadcasters also asked the FCC to avoid interference between broadcasters and wireless carriers as it develops its new plan for both services, and to ensure that broadcasters relocated during the repacking are reimbursed for all reasonable costs in a timely and equitable manner.
In March and April, NAB made additional filings opposing the FCC’s announced plans to alter the methodology used to calculate television stations’ population coverage and interference, contrary to the spectrum auction legislation.
Prior to the release of the notice, numerous members of Congress, including members of the California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York and Tennessee congressional delegations, wrote to the FCC urging a transparent auction process and stressing the importance of preserving a robust local broadcasting system. Congressional delegations from 12 states have also written the FCC expressing their interest in preserving viewer access to local television stations during the auction process. They include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.
Additionally, members of the Tri-Caucus, representing more than 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, 17 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and 15 members of the Asian Pacific Caucus, wrote to the FCC requesting no degradation of service to communities that rely on over-the-air TV more than the general population.
NAB continues to support truly voluntary spectrum incentive auctions that 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 rulemaking proceeding and will continue to emphasize the following general principles:
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.