By letting broadcasters share channels and not relinquish must-carry rights, the commission hopes to entice weak stations to double up (or even triple up) on channels, turn over spectrum to the FCC and participate in the voluntary “incentive” auction.
The FCC took its first step today toward shifting a large swatch of spectrum from TV broadcast to wireless broadband.
It unanimously approved rules allowing TV stations to share channels while retaining must-carry and other rights that come with owning a full channel.
It’s a decision the FCC hopes will entice weak stations to double up (or even triple up) on channels, turn over spectrum to the FCC and participate in a voluntary “incentive” auctions.
Under a law enacted earlier this year, stations who contribute spectrum to such an auction my share in the proceeds.
Through the auction, the commission has said it would like to recover up to 120 MHz or 40% of all TV spectrum.
Most broadcasters are not interested in giving up spectrum and, although participation in the incentive auction is voluntary, they are concerned about collateral damage that may be caused when the FCC repacks the TV band to aggregate the returned spectrum for auction.
Repacking mostly involves switching channel assignments, but could also impact changes in power levels and tower locations. All such changes affect coverage to some degree.
The law addresses broadcasters’ concerns by mandating that the FCC must make all “reasonable” efforts not to degrade the coverage of the remaining stations.
However, many broadcasters still fear that there will be irreparable harm from the repacking.