Report Presents Most Honest TV Spectrum Repacking Picture Yet

Posted on March 31st, 2014 by

A few months ago, the FCC hired an outside contractor to answer some weighty questions on the costs associated with repacking TV stations into few channels after a spectrum auction.  The report is now done, and the FCC wants to know what you think. The report can be accessed at  Comments are due April 21, with reply comments on May 6.

To identify potential expenses (but not yet determine which ones are reasonable and will be reimbursed), the report is fairly comprehensive, and therefore examines several complex issues that will arise in any repacking.  For example, a significant number of towers may need to be studied and strengthened to enable antenna changes.  For NCE TV stations, tower ages present a more acute problem, and could cause delays.  The report acknowledges but skips past any assessment of the cost or length of time for zoning approvals that may be necessary.  A shortage of tower crews is identified.  The report makes clear that the speed of the repacking will vary from as short as 12 months for some stations, to as long as 5 years for others, especially those currently located on towers with multiple users.

We hope the FCC is paying attention because this report presents information that should shape how they structure aspects of the incentive auction.  Remember that the auction must pay for itself, but the funds to reimburse repacked TV stations is capped.  It would make sense to us that somewhere in the forward auction software, a station-by-station estimated cost for repacking would be taken into account to ensure that they remain within the capped reimbursement fund amount and do not extend the repacking process for years.