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NAB Offers Duplex Gap Compromise

The National Association of Broadcasters has offered up a compromise proposal on repacking TV stations in the duplex gap (buffer spectrum in the Wireless portion of the post-incentive auction band).

NAB would still prefer that the FCC stick with its original plan of reserving the gap for wireless microphones and unlicensed devices, it says that if the FCC is going to repack stations in the gap, as it is now proposing, it should limit it to impairing only six markets, with only one of those in the top 25, and only one station repacked in each market.

That compromise was offered up in a letter to FCC commissioners and staff from NAB EVP and General Counsel Rick Kaplan.

NAB said that the compromise is a way for the FCC to set ambitious spectrum-clearing targets without "crippling" unlicensed services and newsgathering.

NAB said that only one of those markets should be in the top 25.

The FCC postponed a vote on the incentive auction procedures public notice last week, including on the duplex gap proposal after pushback on that proposal from the Hill and elsewhere.

NAB pointed out that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that only a half-dozen stations would need to be repacked in the gap, so its compromise fills that bill.

NAB is also proposing that, after the FCC sets its initial spectrum clearing target (likely somewhere between 60 and 120 MHz), it not be able to repack any more TV stations in the wireless band, whether in the duplex gap, guard bands, or wireless downlink/uplink spectrum.

That means if a station drops out of the auction--the bidding goes too low--and the FCC does not have room to repack it in the broadcast band, the FCC must pay the station's last acceptable price for giving up the spectrum.

"This approach will enhance the auction by lessening 600 MHz band impairments and creating more unimpaired paired spectrum for the forward auction. It also fairly compensates broadcasters by not allowing the FCC to avoid paying the most valuable stations by simply shifting them to the 600 MHz wireless band," NAB told the FCC in a filing Tuesday (July 21).

"It allows the FCC to achieve a high clearing target with the six markets it seeks to impair, while maximizing

broadcaster participation and protecting, for the most part, unlicensed and licensed wireless microphone operations," NAB said.