NAB blasts Wheeler's 'disingenuous' statements on incentive auction repacking schedule

The National Association of Broadcasters again protested the FCC's 39-month timeline for repacking TV spectrum following the upcoming incentive auction, saying the Commission "has not done any serious analysis" of the work required to move broadcasters to new channels.

The incentive auction of prized 600 MHz spectrum is beginning to get underway, with TV broadcasters registering with the FCC to sell their spectrum, and wireless carriers and others registering with the agency to buy that spectrum. However, before that spectrum can be moved from TV broadcasters and to willing spectrum buyers, the spectrum must first be "repacked" to avoid interference.

The FCC has proposed a 39-month timeline for repacking, sparking controversy on multiple fronts: The NAB continues to claim broadcasters will need more time to move to other channels, while some mobile network operators say the FCC's plan provides ample time. And AT&T has consistently urged the FCC adopt a "realistic" timeframe regardless of how long the process takes.

In a lengthy blog post, NAB Associate General Counsel Patrick McFadden took issue with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's recent statements to a House Appropriations Committee panel defending the 39-month plan. The NAB initially proposed a 30-month timeframe, Wheeler said, adding that the broadcasters' consortium has continued to lobby for more time since then.

McFadden said Wheeler's remarks were "disingenuous," noting among other factors that the number of TV stations involved has doubled since the 30-month schedule was proposed.

"New facts and circumstances demand new solutions," he wrote. "While it is concerning that some continue to hide behind comments NAB submitted more than three years ago under different circumstances, it's frightening that these same officials are hiding at all. The point of the repacking conversation is not to prove who is right; rather it's to get it right. As the FCC pivots to thinking about repacking -- which is now likely less than a year away -- rather than being cute about past comments, it should actually engage and wrestle with the enormously complex repacking problem ahead."

Verizon, T-Mobile and other major carriers have said they will participate in the auction, although the airwaves at stake likely won't be available for mobile use until 2020 or later.

For more:
- see this NAB blog post

Special Report: 600 MHz incentive auction primer: Who will bid, when it will happen, how it will work, and how much money it will raise

Related articles:
T-Mobile's 600 MHz auction repacking report is 'oversimplified and misleading,' NAB argues
AT&T wants a 'realistic' repacking schedule for FCC's upcoming 600 MHz incentive spectrum auction
CCA, NAB bicker over incentive auction's relocation fund, spectrum repacking timeline
AT&T offers spectrum repacking plans for upcoming 600 MHz incentive auction