FCC's Pai: TV Station Repack Is Ahead of Schedule

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told a conference of tower-erectors in Texas Wednesday (Feb. 6) that he thinks the post-incentive auction repack of almost 1,000 full power TV stations, and twice as many low powers, is on track, and even ahead of schedule so far.

The transition is being achieved in 10 phases, though some stations are moving early off their channels with the financial inducement of wireless carriers who acquired the spectrum at auction.

At the close of Phase 1 last November, 143 TV stations had been repacked, the chairman pointed out, compared to the 90 expected to have done so, according to the original plan.

Related: FCC's 24GHz Auction to Launch March 14

Pai said he had heard the concerns of broadcasters and tower companies that limited crews and weather delays could make it hard to meet some of the phase deadlines, but he recommended coordination between stations and equipment manufacturers and said he remained optimistic that "we can be as successful as we were in Phase 1 and stay on track to complete this work for full-power and Class A stations by July 2020," he told the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) Conference in Grapevine, Texas.

Pai said that so far, 20 of the 115 stations that have to be moved by the end of Phase 2 (April 12) have done so, so NATE members will be busy.

"As you know, these changes don’t just happen by somebody flipping a switch or pushing a magic button," he said. "No, it happens because the men and women in this room—shoutout to the Women of NATE!—go out and do hard and dangerous work. Simply put, without you, the incentive auction cannot succeed in the end."

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.