FCC incentive auction repack plan coming soon

cell tower
(Credit: Carl Lender/Flickr)

With stage 2 of the FCC’s 600 MHz incentive auction currently underway, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is promising to soon release information on the post-auction transition and TV channel repack plan.

In prepared remarks to the Senate Commerce Committee, Wheeler said the Incentive Auction Task Force will soon release for discussion and comment transition models to calculate the order and schedule of station relocation efforts.

“These models reflect the input we’ve received from broadcasters, wireless companies, tower crews, equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders,” said Wheeler. “Getting the transition right is as important as getting the auction itself right. We continue to prioritize planning for an efficient and effective transition with minimal disruption to the viewing public. With the continued engagement of industry stakeholders, that’s exactly what we’ll get.”

Wheeler’s comments match up with details provided by FCC Incentive Auction Task Force Vice Chair Howard Symons, who told TVNewsCheck that the FCC is nearing completion on the computer program built to organize the repack based on how much spectrum needs to be cleared.

In stage 2 of the auction, the spectrum clearing target has been reduced to 114 MHz, down from the maximum target of 126 MHz set for stage 1. The FCC will continue to move through stages and adjust the clearing target until it hit target proceeds for the spectrum.

As the FCC considers the order and schedule for repacking TV channels following the conclusion of the auction, the mandated timeframe and tower crew availability continue to be concerns among those in the tall tower industry. But the process could be a significant revenue opportunity.

A Digital Tech Consulting study estimated that the work of a nationwide repack for all involved channels could cost between $2 billion and $3 billion. But it may be more work than the current tower workforce can handle, especially if it all needs to be wrapped up within the 39 months (36 months plus another three for the construction permit application process) allotted by the FCC.

"We're in the famine period now, getting ready for the feast. So here we are: We're skinny as hell and the food is going to kill us," Thomas Silliman, president of Electronics Research, previously told FierceInstaller.

For more:
- see Wheeler’s remarks (PDF)
- read this TVNewsCheck article

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