Ambassador Verveer: State Still Working on Broadcast Border Issues

Ambassador Philip Verveer, the State Department's coordinator for international communications and information policy, suggested the State Department is still trying to resolve spectrum coordination issues with Canada and Mexico related to the planned reclamation of spectrum from broadcasters and repacking of the band to make room for wireless broadband, but he said no broadcasters will be hurt in the process.

That came during a House Communications Subcommittee hearing Thursday on Internet governance and in response to a request from Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) that the ambassador bring the committee up to speed on the issue.

Verveer said Thursday that treaty obligations with Canada and Mexico, combined with the incentive auction legislative mandate "that no one be disadvantaged if they continue to broadcast" creates an engineering challenge.
"These are things that have to be worked out, and have to be worked out by agreement between the two countries," he told Dingell. "This is going to be a complicated engineering matter. It may or may not be something that will permit any particular changes in the status quo in the border regions," he said, but added "both the treaty and the statutory obligations obviously will be observed."

Dingell is concerned that there is currently no room for any over-the-air stations in Detroit when the broadcast band is repacked to free up spectrum for auction as part of incentive auction legislation passed by Congress. Dingell teamed with Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) on an amendment to that legislation requiring the FCC to resolve broadcaster spectrum coordination issues with Canada and Mexico.

Dingell is also concerned with similar issues in New York, Washington, Montana, Oregon and Minnesota, "as well as the Mexican border," added Verveer.

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, who was also a witness at the hearing, assured Dingell of his commitment to full transparency as the agency works on the border issue, though he said he could not speak for the chairman or other commissioners.

Dingell said he was comfortable that McDowell would be fully transparent, but said "I am a little less comfortable about some of the other folks down at the commission." Dingell has indicated that one of the reasons he felt compelled to add the amendment requiring the FCC to deal with the border issues was that the commission had been "secretive, unhelpful and nonresponsive to his concerns."