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Editorial: Sizing Things Up

When Tom Wheeler smiled and told Congress and others that auction participation was robust and encouraging, he wasn’t kidding.

The FCC has set a 126 MHz initial clearing target for the spectrum auction, which is the most it expected to be able to clear if enough stations offered up their spectrum.

The good news is that the commission says in 99% of the markets there will be no issues with interference between TV stations and wireless operators, meaning the FCC won’t have to put TV stations in the wireless band.

Of course, the reality of all that will depend on whether there is interest by enough auction participants to pay all those stations for giving up spectrum.

But there’s bad news in that high clearing target for low-power TV and translator stations, the latter which relay full-power signals to hard-to-reach areas, who are not eligible for post-auction protections. With so many stations participating, there will be fewer channels left for them to be repacked in. LPTV advocacy groups say the numbers of displaced stations could be in the thousands.

Given that, the FCC should not proceed with its proposal to reduce further the channels available to repack LPTVs and translators, or at least put it on hold until it has studied the impact of the auction on those stations.