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Spectrum sale/repack to take longer, cost more than planned

 - Feds’ spectrum hunt turns inward

A newly released study sponsored by the NAB projects that repacking the TV band after the FCC’s incentive spectrum auction next year could take far longer and cost nearly twice as much as the agency projects. The findings are a worst-case scenario assuming the FCC clears 84 MHz of TV spectrum, buys as many as 249 stations and repacks up to 1,200 stations in the aftermath.

The study finds the repack could take between eight and 11 years and cost $2 billion to $3 billion – much greater than the 39 months and $1.7 billion provided for in the legislation authorizing the TV spectrum auction.

The report confirms what many industry players have been fretting about publicly for the past two years and reflects the scarcity of equipment manufacturing capacity to complete the transition, among other factors. Already, broadcasters not planning to join the auction have been concerned the FCC could leave them holding the bag for some of the costs they would incur because of other stations’ moves – costs Congress promised to cover.

FCC reverse auction workshop Nov. 17

In a separate move, Congress is taking up legislation to compel federal agencies sitting on unused or underutilized wireless spectrum to relinquish the valuable airwaves in exchange for a portion of the proceeds in order to feed growing demands for broadband. Broadcasters have been advocating for such a move since the Obama administration first targeted local broadcasters with the nascent voluntary incentive spectrum auction.

The new effort follows on the heels of a measure that would bring 30 MHz of spectrum to market which was incorporated into the budget deal the White House and Congress struck weeks ago before then-Speaker John Boehner retired. In this push, lawmakers are seeking an additional 20 MHz of spectrum and propose giving the agencies up to 25 percent of the auction proceeds.

The Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015 included in the budget deal is intended to make it easier and cheaper for private companies to install high-speed Internet cables by avoiding the need to dig up streets each time a company wants to expand service.  The so-called dig-once policies suggest installing a single tube in the ground through which all such cabling can be run.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (5120 322-9944.

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