House Commerce Democrats Release New Legislation to Create Nationwide, Interoperable Public Safety Broadband Network and Spur Wireless Innovation11/29/2011
Spectrum part of Recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Offered by Rep Waxman10/13/2011
FCC Chapter: 5.8.5
Status: In progress
The FCC should initiate a rulemaking proceeding to reallocate 120 megahertz from the broadcast television (TV) bands, including:
- Update rules on TV service areas and distance separations and revise the Table of Allotments to ensure the most efficient allotment of six-megahertz channel assignments as a starting point.
- Establish a licensing framework to permit two or more stations to share a six-megahertz channel.
- Determine rules for auctions of broadcast spectrum reclaimed through repacking and voluntary channel sharing.
- Explore alternatives—including changes in broadcast technical architecture, an overlay license auction, or more extensive channel sharing—in the event the preceding recommendations do not yield a significant amount of spectrum.
- Take additional measures to increase efficiency of spectrum use in the broadcast TV bands.
Reallocation would focus primarily on major markets where the broadcast TV bands are most congested and the need for additional spectrum for broadband use will be greatest.
The FCC should study and develop policies to ensure that its longstanding goals of competition, diversity, and localism are achieved.
Changes to the TV broadcast spectrum need to be carefully considered to weigh the impact on consumers, the public interest, and the various services that share this spectrum, including low-power TV, wireless microphones and prospective TV white space devices.
While the FCC has performed initial analyses to consider the viability of various options, further work will be required and all options must be examined through rulemaking.
The FCC should initiate a rulemaking proceeding to reallocate 120 megahertz from the broadcast TV bands.
The proceeding should pursue four sets of actions in parallel to achieve this objective. In addition, the FCC should take a fifth set of actions to increase efficiency of spectrum use in the broadcast TV bands.
1. Update rules on TV service areas and distance separations and revise the Table of Allotments to ensure the most efficient allotment of 6 megahertz channel assignments as a starting point.
2. Establish a licensing framework to permit two or more stations to share a 6 megahertz channel.
- The FCC should ensure that the framework it adopts retains carriage rights for the primary signal of each station with a modified license to share a six-megahertz channel.
- The FCC also should address any potential concerns regarding anti-competitive behavior or media ownership consolidation arising from such arrangements.
- Television stations will need to consider their desire to multicast additional video streams, such as digital side channels and mobile DTV streams, relative to the possible sharing of channels.
3. Determine rules for auctions of broadcast spectrum reclaimed through repacking and voluntary channel sharing.
- The FCC should conduct an auction of some or all of the nationwide, contiguous spectrum recovered through the repacking described above and through decisions by stations to voluntarily relinquish some or all of their bandwidth.
- Congress would need to have authorized the FCC to conduct such an incentive auction and share proceeds.
- Stations could choose to share channels voluntarily under the regulatory frameworkestablished for channel sharing described above in order to participate in the incentive auction.
- The preference is to establish a voluntary, market-based mechanism to effect a reallocation, such as the incentive auctions
- The voluntary, market-based reallocation should be implemented in a way that will have limited long-term impact on consumers overall, broadcast business models and the public interest, including the FCC's goals with respect to competition, diversity and localism.
There are several actions the FCC should take to mitigate the impact on over-the-air consumers:
- The FCC should ensure that consumers in rural areas and smaller markets retain service and are not significantly impacted by these changes. (The reallocation mechanisms are most likely to be in the country's largest, most densely populated markets, where the greatest demand for spectrum and the greatest congestion within the broadcast TV bands coincide.)
- In all markets, the FCC should seek to ensure that longstanding policy goals under the Communications Act are to be met, such as localism, viewpoint diversity, competition and opportunities for new entrants to participate in the industry, including women and members of minority groups.
- The FCC should explore through rulemaking proceedings appropriate compensation mechanisms and levels to retain free television service for those consumers who meet the criteria established. (For example, these consumers could become eligible for a "lifeline" video service from MVPDs, consisting of all over-the-air television signals in their market.
Depending on the particular mechanisms pursued and on the individual choices of TV stations, the reallocation mechanisms could impact the number and diversity of broadcast "voices" in a community or market. As noted above, these effects would primarily take place in major markets, where the number and diversity of local community voices are the highest.
- The FCC should implement these mechanisms consistently with its policies supporting competition, localism, and diversity, and with the outcome of the current quadrennial review of broadcast ownership rules.
- The FCC should study the potential impact on minority and women ownership of TV stations.
- Recommendations in the plan to create a public interest media trust fund will fortify public media across platforms, further bolstering viewpoint diversity and localism in communities throughout the country.
4. Explore alternatives—including changes in broadcast technical architecture, an overlay license auction or more extensive channel sharing—in the event the preceding recommendations do not yield a significant amount of spectrum.
If the FCC does not receive authorization to conduct incentive auctions, or if the incentive auctions do not yield a significant amount of spectrum, the FCC should pursue other mechanisms including:
- Transition to a cellular architecture on a voluntary or involuntary basis.
- Auction of overlay licenses.
- More extensive channel sharing of two or more broadcast TV stations on a single six-megahertz channel.
5. Take additional measures to increase efficiency of spectrum use in the broadcast TV bands.
- Full-power TV spectrum fees. If authorized by Congress, the FCC should consider assessing spectrum fees on commercial, full-power broadcast TV licensees as part of a broader review of broadcast ownership rules and public interest obligations.
- Low power DTV transition. The FCC should establish a deadline to achieve the DTV transition of low-power TV (LPTV) stations by the end of 2015 or after the reallocation of spectrum from the broadcast TV bands is complete. In addition, the FCC should grant similar license flexibility to LPTV stations post-DTV transition as full-power stations have, allow LPTV stations to use certain technologies (such as mask filters) to enable more efficient channel allotments, and authorize LPTV stations to participate in incentive auctions.
- Very high frequency (VHF) reception issues. The FCC should pursue additional options to address VHF reception issues, such as increased power limits or adoption of enhanced antenna and receiver standards. Without these measures, VHF stations may continue to request channel reassignments to the UHF band, complicating efforts to reallocate spectrum from that band to mobile broadband use.
- Trust fund for public media. Congress should consider legislation to establish an endowment to fund public interest media from auction proceeds or spectrum fees.
The FCC should complete rulemaking proceedings on the above steps for which it currently has authority as soon as practicable, but no later than 2011, and should conduct an auction of some or all of the reallocated spectrum in 2012.
If Congress grants the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions prior to the auction in 2012, then the FCC should delay any auction of reallocated broadcast TV spectrum until 2013. This delay would allow time to complete rulemaking proceedings on a voluntary incentive auction. All reallocated spectrum should be cleared by 2015. Though aggressive by historical standards, this timeline would bring additional mobile broadband capacity to market when it may be most needed.