WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Association of Broadcasters yesterday filed a Motion for Reconsideration petition with the Federal Communications Commission regarding certain aspects of the FCC's Public Notice regarding procedures for the broadcast spectrum incentive auction. The motion only addresses targeted, limited issues that should not delay the auction, which is slated to commence in March 2016.
In its petition, NAB asked the FCC to reevaluate two aspects of the incentive auction, whose procedures the Commission passed in August on a split 3-2 vote. NAB's motion requests the FCC reassess its rules allowing for the relocation of some broadcasters into the "duplex gap" that the Commission had previously proposed for the use of wireless microphones. In addition, the motion also asks the FCC to reevaluate the level of spectrum variability the FCC will permit between markets in light of recent agreements with Canada and Mexico governing spectrum allocation.
"In their comments throughout the proceeding, NAB and other broadcasters stressed the need to maintain some exclusive use spectrum for wireless microphones," NAB said in its motion. "The Commission agreed in its framework order, although it reduced the amount of exclusive spectrum for that purpose from 12 to 4 MHz. While not ideal, broadcasters have spent the last year planning to make the best use of this reduced - although still exclusive - allocation."
However, in its Public Notice the FCC reversed course and determined it will not reserve that 4 MHz in the "duplex gap" - a buffer zone of spectrum to prevent interference between the uplink and downlink bands of wireless spectrum - in every market. The Commission instead decided that it was necessary to reallocate some broadcasters into the duplex gap in some markets, which would prevent wireless microphones from operating on that spectrum in those markets.
The FCC proposed solving this problem by reserving two channels in the television band for use by both unlicensed white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones. However, this solution would cause greater harm to the broadcasting community and the viewers who rely on over-the-air television, while not solving the issue of placing broadcasters in the duplex gap.
"The Commission's proposal to reserve a second channel further penalizes the broadcasting industry for the Commission's auction design and policy choices," said the Motion for Reconsideration. "The proposed solution of allocating an additional television channel to unlicensed use and wireless microphones would provide more spectrum for those users at the direct expense of displaced low power television and television translator stations and their viewers, as well as, existing full power stations and new entrants. Forcing broadcasters to cannibalize their own service to continue to operate and serve their communities is not a balanced outcome."
In the Public Notice, the FCC adopted a standard to limit market variability to the equivalent of one paired block of spectrum nationwide, which is a scaled mechanism depending on how much broadcast spectrum is cleared. NAB is petitioning the FCC to reconsider this standard, which currently allows far too much variability given the way foreign impairments will be treated. The Commission recently reached agreements with Canada and Mexico after the Public Notice was adopted that would, among other things, set how the FCC will count impairments from these countries for the purposes of market variability.
"The Commission should take advantage of the framework provided by these agreements and lower its nationwide impairment standard significantly," NAB said in the motion. "We urge the Commission to reconsider its nationwide standard for market variability, and adopt the three percent proposal submitted by AT&T and NAB in this proceeding."
Neither of the issues raised in NAB's Motion for Reconsideration would require the FCC to delay the auction or upend fundamental aspects of its auction design. Both issues can be addressed through software settings and do not require reevaluation of the Commission's auction design.