FCC: Wireless Has Access to All TV Auction Spectrum

(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC Monday (July 13) marked the end of the 39-month TV station repack into smaller spectrum space following the FCC's auction of some of that broadcast spectrum for wireless back in 2017.

The FCC gave six stations an extension of their move until September but the key for the FCC, as it announced Monday, is that "all of the valuable low-band airwaves sold in the ground-breaking broadcast incentive auction are now available for wireless mobile broadband services."

Almost 1,000 full power TV stations (987)--and twice as many low powers--were repacked in 10 phases. Congress allocated over $2 billion to pay for those moves by broadcasters, as well as for the re-tuning of headends by cable operators to receive the new channels.

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The FCC auctioned 84 MHz of broadcast spectrum for wireless. The auction ended March 30, 2017.

Only 41 stations wound up giving up their spectrum and going out of business, with the rest of the stations that gave up spectrum striking deals to share spectrum with another station.

About 15% of the 987 broadcast stations that had to move to new frequencies are on temporary facilities, so the FCC's job in completing the station move is not quite done.

“Today represents a milestone in the Commission’s effort to repurpose spectrum to meet the demands of wireless consumers,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “I want to thank the broadcast and wireless industries, the tower crews, the equipment manufacturers, and the radio frequency engineers who support them for the hard work they have done over the past 39 months to make the benefits of the broadcast incentive auction a reality. I also want to thank the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, along with a team of professionals from across the Commission, who worked in a proactive, flexible, and collaborative way with industry throughout the transition. I appreciate their deep commitment to public service and their dedication to making this challenging project a success for American consumers.”

“I am incredibly proud of the broadcast television industry for its herculean efforts to meet the FCC’s aggressive repacking deadlines, despite complex and extenuating circumstances," said National Association of Broadcasters Presdient Gordon Smith. 

“NAB thanks the FCC staff for their flexibility in working with stations to facilitate transitions and grant extensions when possible. We are also grateful to Congress for allocating the additional funds needed to fully reimburse broadcasters for costs associated with these mandatory moves.

“There is still much work to be done. To meet FCC deadlines, many stations have been required to operate on temporary facilities that do not serve all station viewers. NAB will continue to work with the FCC to ensure that these stations are made whole, and that affected viewers regain access to their local channels."

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.