Democrats Push Back on Duplex Gap Plan

A trio of House Democrats asked the FCC not to put TV stations in the duplex gap, but instead make sure stations in all markets can use that spectrum for wireless mics.

The FCC is expected to vote on putting a handful of stations in the gap as part of an incentive auction procedures public notice teed up for a vote at the Aug. 6 meeting. But the proposal has been getting a lot of pushback, which helped move a planned July 16 vote on the procedures notice into August.

In a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler dated July 28, Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) said TV stations in their communities would be "severely impacted" by the FCC's proposed decision to put some stations in the duplex gap, which it had initially planned to reserve nationwide for mics and other unlicensed devices.

Putting some stations in the gap will potentially allow the FCC to reclaim more spectrum for wireless broadband by freeing up a larger swath of spectrum nationwide.

But broadcasters and wireless companies have pushed back because of potential interference to both stations and wireless operations—the duplex gap is the buffer between uplink and downlink operations in the wireless band.

The legislators pointed out that the FCC has already eliminated exclusive wireless mic channels as part of the incentive auction plan, proposing the duplex gap as a new home.  "Now we understand that the commission has reversed course and intends to move forward with a new proposal that will leave local broadcasters in some markets with no reserved spectrum for wireless mics that are essential to covering breaking news," they said. The mics are also used in sporting and theatrical events.

"We urge the commission to reject this proposal and instead preserve the duplex gap for use by wireless microphones in all markets," they told Wheeler.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.