Senate Democrats urge FCC's Wheeler to tread carefully on duplex gap issue in incentive auction

Ahead of the FCC's vote Thursday on rules for the incentive auction of 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum, a group of Senate Democrats are asking FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to make sure there is enough spectrum set aside for unlicensed use.

At issue is the "duplex gap," which is basically the guard band between spectrum blocks that will be used for wireless service after the auction. The FCC is considering whether to relocate some TV stations' signals into the duplex gap after broadcasters give up their spectrum. A host of interests, including the National Association of Broadcasters, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and public interest groups, are concerned about the FCC's plan on that front. They want as much spectrum as possible in the duplex gaps set aside for unlicensed use and wireless microphones.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told Wheeler in a letter that he should tread carefully and exercise "extreme caution in pursuing this course."

"As the FCC considers how best to relocate broadcasters during the incentive auction, it must ensure adequate spectrum is available for unlicensed use on a contiguous nation-wide basis, and that local broadcasters can continue to report the news and serve their local communities without undue disruption," they said. "If the Commission must relocate full-power broadcasters in the 600 MHz band, it should do so in a way that minimized interference and negative consequences for unlicensed spectrum use and wireless microphones."

The senators said that "relocating a full-power broadcaster in the duplex gap would, in effect, remove this spectrum for unlicensed use in that media market and therefore block millions of potential consumers from accessing next generation unlicensed services." Article