FCC to Vote on Disbursing $1 Billion in New Repack Funds

The FCC will be voting on a proposal at its March 15 meeting to establish rules for disbursing the additional $1 billion Congress approved for post incentive-auction TV station (and now some radio station) repack/moving expenses.

That is according to FCC chair Ajit Pai, who outlined the meeting's agenda in a blog post.

Most of a thousand TV stations are moving in a 10-phase repack as the FCC frees up the spectrum for wireless carriers who won the rights to the TV spectrum in the incentive auction. The FCC is compensating them for new equipment, tweaked equipment and moving costs.

"[K]een observers know that the FCC is in the midst of the 600 MHz band repack, in which hundreds of television stations are in the process of changing their transmission frequencies to make space for wireless services following our incentive auction," he wrote. "Last week, the Commission issued a public notice noting that the repack is ahead of schedule. But we still have much work ahead of us."

That includes distributing all that money. "

For instance," he said, "last year Congress approved an additional $1 billion to cover broadcaster transition costs, and it expanded the list of entities eligible for reimbursement to include affected low-power TV stations, TV translators, and FM radio stations. Next month, the Commission will vote on a Report and Order which will establish rules for the disbursement of this funding."

The new money was included in the RAY BAUMS Act, which freed up as much as a billion more dollars, if/as needed, on top of the $1.75 billion that FCC had concluded would not quite cover it. 

The incentive auction closed April 13, 2017, with 84 MHz of spectrum raising almost $20 billion, including $7 billion for deficit reduction. The stations being repacked into new channels so the 84 MHz can be used by wireless carriers have until July 3, 2020, to make the move.

Phase one of the 10-phase transition ended Nov. 30, 2018, with all stations meeting their deadline, except those granted extensions or moves to other phases.

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.