News Ticker

Wheeler defends option to repack TV stations in the duplex gap

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler during Thursday’s press conference, defended the commission’s proposal to repack some television stations into the duplex gap, the space between uplink and downlink frequencies in the mobile wireless spectrum. If the FCC doesn’t have the option, Wheeler said it would “negatively” affect the cash broadcasters would get.

“Of the 210 TV markets, six may be affected.  Should I allow that to affect the entire situation? If you don’t deal with those half dozen that may exist, then the other markets have channels that would be interfered with and can’t be put into the auction.

There are consequences to not dealing with duplex gap: there is less spectrum; the amount of revenue generated falls 25 percent; the amount available for deficit reduction falls 25 percent. The amount for [spectrum] reserve, decreases as well; our relationship to deal with border issues, is affected.

We have made sure in those six markets, that there are alternatives for unlicensed that are greater than those today. Those extend across the country. That’s the issue we’re dealing with.”

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, particularly if too few stations sold of their spectrum in a market which would leaving the FCC with too many stations to repack in the new TV band.

A diverse group of broadcasters and a bipartisan group of lawmakers quickly 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.

The option to repack was originally part of the auction procedure item which would have been voted on in today’s regular meeting.  Wheeler postponed the item until the August meeting.   At the time he didn’t seem inclined to change his thinking behind keeping the option that a handful of stations might need to be repacked in the so-called duplex gap

“Because we don’t know how many stations will participate in the auction until it starts, we need to make provisions for assigning a few stations to the wireless band in case there is insufficient spectrum in the TV band for all of the stations that wish to remain on the air,” Wheeler said, adding that the simulations and data the commission released last Friday, “make clear the importance of preserving the duplex gap option.”