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Conyers Has Border Issues With Incentive Auction Plan

Add Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to the legislators who have told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski of their concerns about losing access to TV stations as part of an incentive auction proposal to reclaim spectrum for wireless broadband.

In a letter Friday to the chairman, Conyers said that while he did not oppose voluntary auctions, he thought that any proposal should include "imbedded protections for citizens" who rely on free TV from local broadcasters.

His letter follows ones from another Michigan legislator, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), and a group of New York congressfolk.

They are particularly concerned about Canadian border issues.

Conyers pointed out that there are 500,000 Detroit area residents who do not have cable or satellite, many elderly, poor or minorities. Statewide, he said, the figure of broadcast-only viewers is over a million.

"Because a U.S. treaty with Canada creates a 250-mile "spectrum buffer zone," he said, "reserving part of the spectrum for Canadian use only means that a TV station in Detroit cannot occupy the same channel as one in Windsor, Ontario." Something will have to give, he suggested, and that could mean Michigan stations with no frequency to broadcast on. He said that up to 49 Michigan stations may have to move or share channels.

The National Association of Broadcasters has argued that the FCC's spectrum reclamation plan could leave big cities along the border with Canada and Mexico -- Detroit, for example -- without any U.S. over-the-air TV if Canadian and Mexican channel reservations are taken into account, and Dingell has complained that the FCC had not provided him with satisfactory answers on that issue following an official request.