News Ticker

Lawmakers and broadcasters to FCC: Avoid putting TV stations in duplex gap

Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

A diverse group of broadcasters and a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler to think twice before repacking broadcasters in the so-called duplex gap because it would inhibit live news reporting and deprive consumers of next generation services.

Last-minute data released by the FCC on Friday showed that the agency was keeping open the option to place stations in the duplex gap, (the space between between uploads and downloads in the mobile wireless spectrum), if too few stations sold spectrum in a market for the incentive auction, leaving the FCC with too many stations to repack in the new TV band.

In a letter to Wheeler Wednesday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) urged the chairman to preserve the duplex gap for unlicensed and wireless mics.

“A diverse coalition of broadcasters, tech companies, and consumer advocates have raised concerns that placing broadcasters in the duplex gap will complicate and inhibit live news reporting in major urban areas. Furthermore, the current proposal would deprive millions of Americans of the full benefit of next generation unlicensed technologies, including Wi Fi, enabled by making three channels available for unlicensed use on a national basis,” wrote the Senators.

Disney, CBS, FOX and NBCUniversal, Univision, along with affiliate organizations jointly wrote to the FCC asking that the agency preserve reserved spectrum for use by wireless microphones that are critical to news gathering.

“We are concerned that, as part of the incentive auction re-packing, the FCC may place TV stations in the portion of the duplex gap that the FCC previously reserved for use solely by wireless microphones. Although we understand that the FCC intends to minimize the number of markets in which this could happen, we remain concerned that the implications of this decision have not been fully explored, as well as with the level of uncertainty about which and how many markets will be impacted by this potential decision.”

After catching an earful from House commerce chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Wheeler decided to postpone the item until for three weeks until the FCC’s next meeting Aug. 6.